Boeing’s space capsule returns to factory, flight delay expected for months
Boeing’s Starliner space capsule, whose take-off to the International Space Station had to be canceled last week due to problems found with the propulsion system, will have to be returned to the factory for repairs, the company said on Friday.
This new setback postpones this crucial test flight by at least several months for Boeing and NASA.
Boeing said in a statement that the capsule would have to be removed from atop an Atlas V rocket and returned to the Kennedy Center factory in Florida for inspection.
John Vollmer, vice president and director of Boeing’s commercial flight program, said in a news conference it is probably “too early to say” whether this unmanned test flight will be able to take place this year.
Boeing said in its statement that the four valves in the propulsion system “remain closed” despite technicians’ efforts to resolve the problem.
This is a major failure for the group, which continues to have setbacks with the Starliner.
The capsule was to be one of two, along with SpaceX, so that NASA could once again take its astronauts from American soil to the International Space Station (ISS). Since the spacecraft’s shutdown in 2011, the space agency has actually relied on Russian rockets.
If SpaceX has now already sent at least ten astronauts to the ISS, including Frenchman Thomas Pesquet, Boeing still has to pass its first unmanned test flight, which should prove the capsule is safe. .
This test flight was attempted for the first time in 2019, but then came close to disaster due to a software problem.
Starliner must have returned to Earth prematurely, and a later investigation revealed that the capsule experienced a severe flight anomaly upon entering the atmosphere.
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