July 17, 2024
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NASA and Boeing set new undocking and landing date for Starliner spacecraft – Spaceflight Now

This view from a window in the dome overlooks a portion of International Space and shows the partially obscured Boeing Starliner spacecraft docked in the forward port of the Harmony module. Image: NASA

NASA and Boeing teams delayed the planned undocking and landing date of the Starliner spacecraft from the International Space Station by four days. They went from June 18 to June 22 at the latest.

The reason for the extended stay is due in part to the need to gather more information about the Starliner capsule with the benefit of having a crew of astronauts assigned to study aspects of the spacecraft in additional detail.

“The crew can perform more detailed tests of various aspects of the spacecraft hardware with the additional time in orbit. “It is an important opportunity because the spacecraft is new and it is the first time it has carried a crew that can perform these tests in orbit,” a NASA spokesperson told Spaceflight Now. “Even if the effort is repeated, the additional work gives them the opportunity to refine what they saw the first time and pass on more knowledge to the crews of future Starliner missions.”

Part of the work to be done in the coming days will also be to better understand some of the anomalies Starliner experienced during its journey to the orbital outpost and while docked.

A total of five helium leaks have been identified over the course of the mission so far, beginning with the one characterized after the May 6 launch. Ground teams are also studying a reaction control system (RCS) propellant oxidizer isolation valve in the Starliner service module “that is not properly closed.”

During the rendezvous process, the ship's software temporarily disconnected some thrusters that were acting abnormally. One of the five thrusters that was misbehaving was taken out of service for docking.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, characterized the issue during a post-docking press conference.

“These thrusters are similar to the ones we saw in OFT-2. We don't really understand why they are happening. “We took a couple of actions in the software to mitigate potential failures in the (guidance, navigation and control) portion of the software,” Stich said June 6. “Again, we recovered the thrusters and they were working fine during the rendezvous except for one that we left inhibited. These have no relation to the helium leak. The helium leak is separate, they are in different doghouses, they are different propellants. So the helium leak and the propellants are not related at all.”

In a statement Friday, NASA said flight controllers planned to “ignite seven of its eight rear-facing thrusters while docked to the station to evaluate thruster performance for the remainder of the mission.” Two burns will occur during the hot fire test, each lasting approximately one second.

New crew activities are also being added to the schedule for NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who docked Starliner to the ISS on June 6, a day after its launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket.

“We continue to understand Starliner's capabilities to prepare for the long-term goal of having it perform a six-month mission docked with the space station,” Stich said in NASA's June 14 blog post. “The crew will perform additional hatch operations to better understand its handling, repeat some 'safe haven' tests and evaluate piloting using the forward window.”

Since their arrival, they have also performed a number of tasks directly related to their crew flight test mission, but have also lent their talents to station maintenance, assisting with spacewalk activities and conducting some scientific research.

Suni Williams supports the Genes in Space Molecular Operations and Sequencing, or GiSMOS, experiment on June 12. Image: NASA

ISS mission managers intentionally kept the station's schedule fairly open to allow room for maneuver when it comes to the timing of launch and docking, as well as for the duration of the spacecraft docked at the station.

NASA and Boeing team leaders will provide additional details on the progress of the test flight during a press conference at 12 p.m. EDT (1600 UTC) on Tuesday, June 18. The primary and backup landing sites for Starliner in the southwestern United States are still being investigated. certain.

“We have an incredible opportunity to spend more time on station and conduct more testing, which provides invaluable and unique data for our position,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Program division. “As the integrated NASA and Boeing teams have said every step of the way, we have plenty of leeway and time on station to maximize the opportunity for all partners to learn, including our crew.”

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