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Friday, May 31, 2024

NASA’s Crew Flight Test Launch Delayed Again

Another Setback for Boeing’s Starliner


Mission managers from NASA, Boeing, and ULA (United Launch Alliance) continue to evaluate a path forward toward launching the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station. The teams are now working toward a launch opportunity at 12:25 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 1, with additional opportunities on Sunday, June 2, Wednesday, June 5, and Thursday, June 6.

The Boeing Crew Flight Test was scheduled for May 6, but that launch was scrubbed due to a faulty oxygen relief valve. Subsequent issues changed the targeted launch date to May 17May 21, and May 25, before this current target of no earlier than June 1.

Assessing Starliner’s Performance

Ongoing work continues to assess Starliner performance and redundancy following the discovery of a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module. As part of this work, and unrelated to the current leak which remains stable, teams are in the process of completing a follow-on propulsion system assessment to understand potential helium system impacts on some Starliner return scenarios.

NASA also will conduct a Delta-Agency Flight Test Readiness Review to discuss the work that was performed since the last CFT launch attempt on May 6, and to evaluate issue closure and flight rationale ahead of the next attempt, as part of NASA’s process for assessing readiness. The date of the upcoming Flight Test Readiness Review is under consideration and will be announced once selected.

Addressing Technical Challenges

“There has been a great deal of exceptional analysis and testing over the last two weeks by the joint NASA, Boeing, and ULA teams to replace the Centaur Self Regulating Valve and troubleshoot the Starliner Service Module helium manifold leak,” said Steve Stich, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program.

“It has been important that we take our time to understand all the complexities of each issue including the redundant capabilities of the Starliner propulsion system and any implications to our Interim Human Rating Certification. We will launch Butch and Suni on this test mission after the entire community has reviewed the teams’ progress and flight rationale at the upcoming Delta Agency Flight Test Readiness Review.”

Preparing the Crew

Meanwhile, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams continue practicing in Starliner simulators to prepare for flight. The crew remains quarantined and will fly back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida closer to the new launch date.