Starliner Has Five Leaks

Boeing Starliner

Many space fans have been following the successful launch of the Boeing Starliner, another commercial organisation aiming to make space more accessible. It successfully reached the International Space Station, delivering Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams into orbit but it wasn’t without a hitch. Three of its thrusters experienced problems and there were ‘five small leaks on the service module.’ The crew and ground teams are working through safety checks of power and habitability. To ensure a safe return of the astronauts NASA has extended the mission by four days to 18th June. 

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NASA and Boeing Release New Rendering of their X-66 Sustainable Experimental Airliner

Artist’s concept of the X-66 aircraft that Boeing will produce through NASA’s Sustainable Flight Demonstrator project. Credit: NASA

Climate change is arguably the single greatest threat facing the world today. According to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), average global temperatures are set to increase between 1.5 and 2 °C (2.7 to 3.6 °F) by mid-century. To restrict global temperatures to an increase of 1.5 C and avoid the worst-case scenarios, the nations of the world need to achieve net zero emissions by then. Otherwise, things will get a lot worse before they get better, assuming they ever do.

This means transitioning to cleaner methods in terms of energy, transportation, and aviation. To meet our climate commitments, the aviation industry is developing technology to significantly reduce air travel’s carbon footprint. To help meet this goal, NASA and Boeing have come together to create the X-66 Sustainable Experimental Airliner, the first experimental plane specifically focused on helping the U.S. achieve net-zero aviation. Last week, NASA released a new rendering of the concept, giving the public an updated look at the future of air travel.

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Starliner Faces New Delays for Crewed Flights to ISS

An uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner approaches the International Space Station above the south Pacific on May 20, 2022. Credit: NASA

While the SpaceX Crew Dragon is making regular trips to and from the International Space Station, the other vehicle NASA was planning to rely on for crew transportation keeps running into problems and delays. Boeing and NASA just announced another set of delays for the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, pushing it even further back from its proposed July launch window — which was already years behind schedule.

Problems with its parachute lines and the electrical system were identified, and the program manager isn’t sure if Starliner will even fly by the end of 2023.

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According to a US Auditor, Each Launch of the Space Launch System Will Cost an “Unsustainable” $4.1 Billion

This will likely come as a surprise to no one who has closely watched the development of NASA’s next giant rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS), but it’s going to be expensive to use.  Like, really expensive – to the tune of $4.1 billion per launch, according to the NASA Inspector General.  That’s over double the original expected launch cost.

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Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed. No Idea When it Might fly

With all the news recently about relatively young rocket companies successfully flinging their founders and some actual astronauts into space, it might be surprising that the rocket company with the most experience of all still hasn’t gotten its flagship new rocket off the ground with people yet.  And after yet another delay, there is now no firm date for the launch of Boeing’s Starliner.

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Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner

An artist's illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit. Credit: Boeing

On July 28th, the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a mishap after a new Russian module (named Nauka) fired its thrusters just hours after arriving. As a result, the entire station was temporarily pushed out of position, forcibly delaying the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. This would have been Boeing’s CT-100 Starliner’s second attempt to rendezvous with the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

The ISS managed to correct its orbit shortly thereafter, while the OFT-2 launch was delayed until the next available opportunity (Wednesday, Aug. 4th). Unfortunately, the mission was delayed again due to an issue with one of the valves on the spacecraft’s propulsion system. This prompted the ground crews to move the Starliner and Atlas V launch vehicle back into Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), so they can look for the source of the problem more closely.

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NASA has a Pretty Big Checklist for Boeing to Fix on Starliner

An artist's illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit. Credit: Boeing

In 2014, NASA contracted two major aerospace companies (Boeing and SpaceX) to help them restore domestic launch capability to the United States. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCE), Boeing and SpaceX developed the CST-100 Starliner the Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively. But whereas the Crew Dragon finished testing and even carried astronauts to the ISS, the Starliner met with some problems.

During its first uncrewed test flight – Orbital Flight Test-1 (OFT-1) – in December 2019, the Starliner experienced some failures that prevented it from docking with the ISS. After a thorough investigation, the joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review team has completed its final assessment and identified 80 areas where corrections need to be made before the Starliner can conduct another orbital flight test.

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NASA tells Boeing to Make 61 Corrective Actions to Starliner Before the Program can Continue

Credit: NASA

With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA has become dependent on its Russian counterparts to send and return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Hoping to restore domestic launch capability to American soil, NASA has contracted with aerospace developers like SpaceX and Boeing to develop crew-capable spacecraft, as part of their Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

After years of development, Boeing managed to get their CST-100 Starliner ready for its first uncrewed test flight on December 20th, 2019. Unfortunately, a hiccup occurred during the mission that prevented the spacecraft docking with the ISS. After an independent review of the mission, NASA and Boeing have determined that 61 corrective actions need to be taken before the Starliner can fly again.

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A Television Satellite Might be About to Explode

Artist's impression of a satellite exploding. Credit: ESA

On Friday (Jan. 19th), authorities at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that they had granted permission to cable tv provider DirecTV to begin the process of deorbiting their Spaceway-1 (F1) satellite. This was necessary ever since DirecTV detected a “major anomaly” with the satellite’s batteries which increased the risk of an explosion if its orbit remained unchanged.

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