Boeing to launch Starliner spacecraft for NASA on May 19

(ORDO NEWS) — The test launch of the spacecraft without a crew, called OFT-2 (Orbital Flight Test-2), will take place no earlier than May 19. Boeing is still seeking to certify its Starliner spacecraft for future NASA astronaut flights.

Launch will take place from Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Spaceport in Florida, NASA said in a recent report. The launch is scheduled for 22:54 GMT.

The test will enable Boeing to once again simulate a flight to the International Space Station. The Starliner will be launched on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, with Boeing attempting to prepare the spacecraft for launch, docking and return to Earth.

This flight will be the second attempt for Starliner after the failed OFT-1 mission in December 2019 and numerous technical problems with the development of OFT-2.

In July 2020, NASA reviewed Boeing’s first problematic test flight that did not reach the ISS and identified 80 necessary fixes to address the crashes and software issues that underpinned the mission’s failure.

Solving these problems took time, and the process was complicated by issues such as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and widespread power outages in Texas during testing.

But on July 22, 2021, the system appeared to be nearly ready to launch after it passed a flight readiness (FRR) check for an expected launch on July 30, 2021.

But the launch on July 30 was canceled due to an accident with the Russian Nauka module, which docked with the International Space Station and banked the orbital complex so much that it caused an emergency on the spacecraft.

Following this, the teams encountered a valve problem on the Starliner at the launch pad, necessitating an investigation, resulting in the reserve launch date set for August 3 being cancelled.

Ground teams ultimately decided to roll the Atlas V rocket back into the vertical integration module at Launch Complex-41 on August 5, 2021, to gain more direct access to the Starliner to fix the valve problem.

Ongoing valve troubleshooting, as well as a busy ISS launch schedule, has led to the mission being pushed back to 2022. But by the end of 2021, engineers were able to tell that the root cause of the anomaly was the interaction of moisture with an oxidizer, resulting in corrosion that sealed the valves.

The ship’s crew partially resolved the valve problem by replacing the service module with a module from an upcoming flight, originally scheduled for crewed flight test (CFT), which was supposed to carry astronauts. However, the current launch date of May 2022 is in line with the expected timeline the team had projected towards the end of 2021.

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