Stock Groups

Boeing Starliner OFT-2 launch: What’s at stake


As the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is being rolled to the launchpad to prepare for the OFT-2 mission, which is scheduled to take off May 19, 2022, it can be seen with Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft onboard.

Joel Kowsky | NASA

BoeingStarliner to attempt to get to the International Space Station again CApsule Thursday was nearly two-and-a half years since the first mission of the company failed.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft has been under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It won almost $5 billion to construct the capsule. This program allows the company to compete against other companies. Elon Musk’sSpaceX completed its Crew Dragon development and is now available for purchase. on its fourth operational human spaceflight for NASA.

Over the last three years, Boeing has encountered many obstacles in developing Starliner.

The Orbital Flight Test (OFT) was its first uncrewed mission, which took place in December 2019. ended prematurely after a software malfunction saw the capsule end up in the wrong orbit. NASA discovered earlier this year after conducting an investigation, that Boeing’s Software Development was an area in which they may not have had the necessary oversight and insight.

Boeing tried to launch OFT-2 (or the second orbital flight testing) in August but was unsuccessful. the company discovered a propulsion valve problemThe spacecraft was not yet on the ground. After corrosion caused by launch-site moisture, thirteen of the 24 Starliner’s oxidizer valves got stuck. The spacecraft’s servicing module was also replaced.

Boeing is currently sealing the valves with a sealant and will attempt to launch OFT-2 Thursday at 6:54 PM. ET.

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket will transport Starliner into orbit. It will then embark on a 24-hour journey before reaching the ISS. Expect the flight to take only a few days, before it returns home to Earth.

According to the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron, conditions are likely to be clear for launch. However, scattered thunderstorms could cause delays around Florida’s Cape Canaveral. Although the forecast is deteriorating, a backup launch time has been scheduled for Friday.

Boeing passes a critical test

Preparing for the OFT-2 launch mission scheduled for May 19, 20,22, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is being moved by the crew access arm from Launch Complex-41.

Joel Kowsky | NASA

SpaceX and Boeing were once considered equals in their race to send astronauts into space. Boeing continues to be delayed in Starliner’s construction, which has repercussions on both schedule and finances.

Due to the fixed-price nature of its NASA contract, Boeing absorbed the cost of additional work on the capsule – with $595 million spent by the company so far.

NASA took last year’s the rare move of reassigning astronauts from Starliner to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. Last year, the agency announced that it will purchase three additional crew flights from SpaceX. This would allow Musk’s company to possibly complete its six-flight NASA contract before Starliner can even carry a crew.

Boeing will then conduct a crewed test flight that would allow the astronauts to fly Starliner if Thursday’s OFT-2 launch succeeds.

Mark Nappi was the vice president at Boeing. He stated in pre-launch media that Boeing could potentially be prepared for crewed flights “by the middle of the year.” However, Boeing is still examining the possibility of redesigning the flight. Aerojet RocketdyneStarliner could have a problem with its valves, making it more difficult for crewed launches.

Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Manager said that the agency does not consider a Starliner valve redesign a big deal in terms of certification. Boeing would collaborate with NASA to find out the right type of testing to conduct in the case of a redesign. Stich added that a timetable is still unknown for how long this might take.

“Personally, I would love to see Starliner flying past 2030 – I would love to see Dragon flying past 2030. Stich noted that NASA invested a lot in these vehicles, and they are excellent platforms to get to low Earth orbit.”