May 22, 2024

Brighton Journal

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Boeing Starliner launch delayed until at least May 17 – Orlando Sentinel

Boeing Starliner launch delayed until at least May 17 – Orlando Sentinel

Two NASA astronauts were ready to launch, but one valve caused friction on their flight aboard a Boeing CST-100 Starliner Monday night. The next shot won’t be flying until at least May 17.

“I know everyone was eager to see the launch,” Ken Bowersox, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, said during a news conference Monday evening after the scrub. “…But all I want to say first is that the good things are worth the wait, and we’ll get a chance to see that rocket and spacecraft lift off the pad here soon.”

Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams were strapped into a Starliner module sitting atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, but just over two hours before the planned liftoff, the teams aborted the launch attempt.

ULA cancels attempt at first Boeing Starliner mission with humans

The cause was a technical problem with the valve on the Centaur upper stage on the ULA rocket designed to regulate pressure on a liquid oxygen tank.

Teams on the pad reported unexpected sounds coming from the rocket after NASA astronauts had already entered the spacecraft.

“We saw the self-regulating valve on the side (liquid oxygen) beeping a little bit, so it was moving in a weird way,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “The flight rules for this flight were established in advance with the crew on the launch pad. The appropriate action was to make the omitted decision, and the United Launch Alliance team did a great job evaluating the data, talking through the different options and putting us through the uncertainty.”

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ULA President and CEO Torey Bruno said the decision to remove had more to do with applicable flight rules versus the actual problem.

“Our philosophy is that we do not change the fueling status of the vehicle while the crew is present,” he said. “You can do it differently than that, and others do it, but that’s our philosophy. So we built our flight rules around that.

He noted that the problem was something they had seen before on ULA rockets, and if humans had not been on board, the solution would have been simple.

“It’s no different than many other similar valves, and you have one in your house on your hot water tank and this is not very different,” he said. “Every now and then, on rare occasions, a valve like this can get to a position where it’s off the seat. Its temperature, its stiffness, everything is fine, and it will flutter or buzz in this case, in the cycle.

He said the fix is ​​to force the valve to close for its cycle.

“Once the crew got out, we turned the valve and it stopped buzzing,” he said. “If this were a satellite, that’s our standard procedure, and the satellite would already be in orbit.”

But with humans on board, ULA rules meant the fueling status of the volatile cryogenic fuel could not be changed.

“I promised Butch and Sonny a boring evening,” Bruno said. “I didn’t mean for it to be this boring. But we will follow our rules and make sure the crew is safe.”

But there is another problem related to the life of the valve. Bruno said it is qualified to open and close 200,000 times at full pressure. Based on Monday night’s data, it is possible that there will be a flutter on the valve that, if it were in fact fully opening and closing, would be close to the 200,000 limit.

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Bruno said ULA was investigating the possibility that the lobbying exercised was not at full capacity, meaning only a partial deduction against the $200,000 limit. Bruno said there were no tools to actually measure the valve in question, and that data had to be known from surrounding devices.

After looking at the data overnight and throughout the day Tuesday, NASA said the decision was made to replace the valve, which means returning the rocket to Boeing’s Vertical Integration Facility.

The new target launch date is Friday, May 17 at 6:16 p.m. The bounce will take place on Wednesday, so the rocket can be “extended” to allow access to the valve, but the Starliner can remain on top of the rocket without removing it.

“We have spare valves. We know how to do it. We have done it before, but it will take several days,” Bruno said.

The good news for NASA is that the usually crowded International Space Station has some time without needing to send any new cargo or crew missions.

“We’re in no rush to fly from the station’s perspective,” said Dana Weigel, NASA’s director of the International Space Station. “We intentionally canceled our summer schedule to give us plenty of runway for the CFT mission. The next docking vehicle is coming in August, so we have plenty of time.

When Starliner launches, it will be the final qualification flight required for the spacecraft to be used on regular missions to the International Space Station (ISS) and share missions with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

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Willmore and Williams will test the spacecraft’s manual operations as it approaches the International Space Station before staying on board for eight days. After that, they will depart and experience more manual operations on the return trip with a final landing in the desert in the western United States.

“I spoke with the crew right before we came here, and they are in good spirits,” said Mark Nappi, Boeing’s commercial crew program manager. “They completely understand these types of situations. A lot of things have to go right. And it’s not about the majority of things, everything has to go right before we launch.

If all goes well, Boeing could be ready to launch its first regular mission, Starliner-1, as early as February 2025, the first of six contracted flights to the International Space Station that will fly once a year until 2025. 2030, after which NASA plans to stop service. The station.

“Today was a good trial run for the whole process,” Nappi said. “We’ll wait until we understand what the problem is. We’ll set the next launch date. We’ll restart the clock. Then hopefully we’ll see you back here in a couple of days.”