Boeing's second attempt at an unexpected orbital flight test of its CST - 100 starliner spacecraft has been postponed for the second time Tuesday following engineers found unexpected valve position indications in the vehicle's propulsion systems.
The aerospace giant noted the thermal issue was initially detected during pre-launch preparations following electrical storms near Kennedy Space Center on Monday.
We are disappointed by today's decision and the need to reschedule our Starliner launch, John Vollmer, Boeing Commercial Crew Program vice- president and program manager, said in a statement. Human spaceflight is a complex, precision and unforgiving endeavor, and Boeing and NASA will take the time they need to ensure the safety and integrity of the spacecraft and the achievement of our mission objectives.
The Starliner spacecraft is slated to launch aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket as part of Boeing's Orbital Flight Test - 2 mission, which will transport more than 400 pounds of air cargo and crew supplies to the International Space Station and return with more than 550 pounds of cargo, including the reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.
OFT 2 will demonstrate the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V rocket from launch, to docking, to a return to Earth with a desert landing in the western United States, NASA said in a statement. The plane mission will produce valuable data into NASA certifying Boeing's crew transportation system for regular flights to and from the station.
The launch was originally scheduled for liftoff on Friday but later had to be delayed after a mishap with the Nauka module when it docked with the Russian ISS on Thursday. The next available launch opportunity will occur Wednesday at 12: 57 p.m. though no new launch is currently confirmed as Boeing and NASA team are assessing the situation.
Starliner is designed to carry a maximum crew of seven people, but NASA plans to carry a crew of four to five people on future missions. The crew module design is designed for up to 10 missions.
The spacecraft's upcoming flight will mark a milestone as NASA looks to reduce its dependence on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry the NASA astronauts to space.
Boeing is planning to fly Starliner on a total of three test flights and six missions to the International Space Station. The company is aiming to eventually sell its fifth seat to private and commercial astronauts as well as government passengers flying for tourism as visitors.