Boeing’s Starliner capsule delays launch until 2022

Bad news for Boeing and its plans to fly astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). The trial launch of the Starliner capsule has been postponed until 2022 for technical problems. SpaceX, for its part, remains unstoppable and consolidates its relationship with NASA.

Starliner’s second test flight was scheduled for August 3. The capsule had to pass a critical test of unmanned launch and docking with the ISS. However, previous tests detected service module valve failures, so takeoff was postponed.

Everything seemed to indicate that, with the valve problems fixed, the Starliner would fly this year. However, Boeing, along with NASA, the United Launch Alliance and the Eastern Range, are evaluating possible launch windows for next year as the investigation into the problems continues.

According to the aerospace company team at NASA, the valve problems are related to the interactions between oxidants and moisture. Consequently, they have already started working to fix the problem. “Most of the fault tree elements have been fixed,” they say.

Boeing’s Starliner won’t take off

Credit: Boeing

But the problem, according to NASA’s own experts, “is complex.” The agency assures that it will methodically evaluate the procedures to ensure that the repair is completed before launch. In this sense, the next few weeks will be marked by intensive testing.

Unfortunately this is not Boeing’s first setback. The Starliner capsule too failed on its first test flight in 2019. The original idea was for it to reach the ISS, but due to technical problems it ended six days ahead of schedule and without reaching the Space Station.

Starliner is one of the capsules that NASA relies on to send astronauts to the ISS. But he has only made one test flight, unsuccessful and without a crew. The other is SpaceX’s Dragon Crew, which is one step ahead and is already operational and certified to fulfill this type of mission.

Added to this complex panorama is NASA’s recent decision to resign the astronauts who would fly the first manned Starlink mission when it was ready. Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will now fly on the fifth manned mission to SpaceX’s ISS aboard a Crew Dragon.