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Thursday, May 19, 2022

Boeing considers redesigning problematic valve that has stored Starliner from flying NASA astronauts

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Boeing’s Starliner capsule for the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission is lifted on prime of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket on May 4, 2022.

Frank Michaux / NASA

Boeing is inspecting whether or not to revamp the propulsion valves on its Starliner crew capsule, a vital system that has stored the corporate from flying astronauts for NASA – and competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Starliner is the spacecraft that Boeing has been growing underneath NASA’s Commercial Crew program, having received almost $5 billion in contracts to construct the capsule. But Starliner’s improvement has run into a number of obstacles. A software program malfunction lower brief the primary uncrewed orbital flight in 2019, and a propulsion valve downside was recognized earlier than launching the second try final August.

“A valve redesign is definitely on the table,” Boeing vp and Commercial Crew program supervisor Mark Nappi mentioned throughout a information convention Wednesday. “Once we get all the information that we need, we’ll make that decision.”

Boeing is making one other try at launching the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission, which is about to elevate off May 19. The firm utilized a sealant to the valves for this try. But the repair is probably going a short lived resolution to the problem, which in August noticed 13 of the 24 oxidizer valves that management Starliner’s motion in area get caught after Florida humidity induced corrosion.

Depending on the end result of OFT-2, Boeing would then put together for a crewed flight check that will see the primary astronauts fly on Starliner. A valve redesign might additional delay that crewed launch, nevertheless, given the necessity for Boeing to check and NASA certify the answer.

To date, Boeing has spent $595 million on account of the delays, because it has a fixed-price contract with NASA for Starliner’s improvement. The area company final 12 months took the uncommon transfer of reassigning astronauts from Starliner to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which simply launched the corporate’s seventh human spaceflight.

Reuters first reported Boeing will redesign the Aerojet Rocketdyne-made valves, though neither the corporate nor NASA had beforehand revealed the plans. Nappi confirmed that Boeing has “been looking at options for at least a month, if not more.”

For now, Nappi mentioned Boeing needs “to do a little more testing” to additional perceive how “these nitrates form inside” the valves, with these outcomes guiding a group that is been established.

“We’re very confident for OFT-2 that we have a system that is going to operate properly,” Nappi mentioned.

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