It will not be in April, as planned, but at the end of July. And that as soon as possible. Boeing and NASA redefine the schedule for the first manned flight of the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). It has been the agency itself that has confirmed, through an official statement, that the new schedule does not foresee that the mission can be launched before July 21.
It’s not the first delay in Starliner history.
A new date? Exact. Although indicative. NASA has just confirmed that the first manned flight of the Starliner shuttle will be delayed until well into the summer. To be more precise and sticking to the expression used by the agency itself, it is postponed to a date “not before July 21”. The initial schedule contemplated that this operation would be carried out at the end of this month.
And what is the reason? The delay can be explained for several reasons: a test focused on the parachute deployment system —crucial for Starliner’s return to Earth—, administrative issues, and the need to coordinate with other operations scheduled for the coming months, such as Axiom-2. (AX-2), the second private mission with Axiom Space astronauts to the International Station and scheduled to launch in the spring.
“If we take all the pieces into account, most of the work will be completed in April for the flight,” explains Steve Stich, from the space agency, in statements collected by CBS News. “But there is an area that will last until May This is the parachute system certification products.”
Do you know anything else? Yes. NASA emphasizes that close to 90% of the certifications have been completed and both it and Boeing expect the remaining ones for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to be ready throughout the spring, once the tests have been completed. of various subsystems, including testing in manual mode. “The construction of the Starliner ship is complete. The team is now working on the final interior closures and finishing tests,” he stresses.
Rocket hardware sits at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, awaiting processing before stacking at the launch site. The NASA astronauts who will fly in the CFT have also just completed tests with the crew interface, which includes training with the equipment and hardware they will have to use in orbit.
We and @Commercial_Crew shared July as the new target launch timeframe for the #Starliner Crew Flight Test, which gives teams time to complete certification work and accommodates a busy schedule at the @Space_Station.
Learn more: https://t.co/AaxcuPPKpD pic.twitter.com/zhU0cTjTFZ
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) March 29, 2023
What are they working on now? “We are carrying out the certification work… It is a large amount of work that has taken more than a year. There are 600 components that have to be qualified on Starliner for joint review by NASA and Boeing and more than 70 reports of risk”, details Stich, who clarifies that verifications are added to this workload.
Both NASA and Boeing pay special attention to the Starliner’s parachute system, which will need to be deployed to facilitate the ship’s safe landing during its return to Earth. The test will serve to guarantee that the thermal shield installed in the upper part of the ship will deploy correctly in extreme conditions, allowing the release of the parachutes. “We will do a test in the regime [de estrés] highest possible,” he details.
Is the mission important? Yes. Beyond its specific goal of transferring two veteran astronauts—Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita Williams—to the ISS, what the Crew Flight Test mission really aspires to is to demonstrate that the Starliner is prepared to offer a service regular for the space transport of crew members, a task in which he will alternate with Crew Dragon, from Space X.
In 2014 Boeing and SpaceX were commissioned to build spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to and from the ISS. The first major milestone in that career was achieved by Elon Musk’s company, which in 2020 completed the first piloted mission of its Dragon capsule with a Falcon 9 rocket. Boeing’s “tempo” has been somewhat different: its schedule ended up stretching and, After two pilotless test flights in 2019 and May 2022, it now wants, at last, a manned mission.
Cover Image: Boeing/John Grant
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