Helium leak delays Starliner crew test flight

WASHINGTON — NASA and Boeing have once again postponed the first crewed flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner while they work to resolve a helium leak in the spacecraft’s propulsion system.

in statement In late May 17, NASA announced that the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, previously scheduled for May 21, had been postponed until no later than May 25 at 3:09 PM ET to continue work on a leak in the pressure system. Helium in the spacecraft.

This latest slip comes three days after NASA and Boeing announced they were postponing the launch, which was scheduled for May 17, to address a helium leak in the propulsion device in the spacecraft’s service module. The leak was traced to a flange in one of the engines, and Boeing said at the time that it was working to better characterize the leak and develop an aviation rationale for flying the system as is without replacing the flange.

“A pressure test conducted on May 15 on the spacecraft’s helium system showed that the tip leak is stable and would not pose a risk at this level during flight,” NASA said in announcing the new postponement. “Boeing teams are developing operational procedures to ensure the system maintains sufficient performance capability and adequate redundancy during flight.”

NASA added that its commercial crew and ISS programs will take the next few days “to review data and procedures to make a final decision before embarking on the flight countdown.”

The announcement came after several hours of speculation that another delay was coming for the mission, which has suffered general setbacks for years due to various technical problems with elements of the spacecraft ranging from valves to parachutes. Boeing provided few additional details about the helium leak and did not answer previous questions about it.

See also  Leak spoils NASA's attempt to launch moon rocket; Next try in a few weeks

According to industry sources, the leak was discovered during the May 6 countdown that was canceled due to an unrelated valve problem with the Atlas 5 Centaur upper stage. It was not clear whether the launch would have continued had the valve been operating normally.

Mark Nappi, a Boeing vice president and director of the company’s Starliner program, did not mention the helium leak or any other problems with the spacecraft during a press conference after the May 6 scrub. “Today was a good trial run for the whole process,” he said at the time, as launch preparations were proceeding normally until the launch was canceled about two hours before the scheduled lift-off time. “We were ahead of schedule, about 45 minutes ahead of schedule, so the team did an excellent job.”

“A lot of things have to go well. It’s not the majority of things; everything has to go well before we launch,” he added.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *