No earlier than May 21: The first manned flight of the Starliner is postponed again

The first manned flight of the new CST-100 Starliner spacecraft has been postponed for at least 4 days. The reason for this was a helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module.

Starliner spacecraft installed on the Atlas V rocket. Source: NASA/Joel Kowsky

The Starliner was built by Boeing at the request of NASA. It is designed to deliver people and cargo to the ISS. At the moment, it has two unmanned orbital tests on its account. As for the manned flight, it was repeatedly postponed due to various problems with the software, the parachute system and the tape used to wind the wires.

Finally, the first manned flight of the new spacecraft was scheduled for May 7. However, just two hours before the Starliner was supposed to break away from the launch pad, the pre-launch countdown was interrupted. The reason was a problem with one of the valves of the Atlas V rocket. Because of this, engineers had to postpone the Starliner flight to May 17.

However, this shift was not the last. According to a recent statement from Boeing, the first flight of the Starliner will take place no earlier than May 21. The reason for the new delay was a “small helium leak” in the spacecraft’s service module. This gas is used to pressurize the Starliner propulsion system. The message didn’t specify when the leak was discovered, or whether it was known during the previous attempt to launch the spacecraft.

In the coming days, NASA and Boeing experts will conduct a series of tests to solve the problem with the helium leak. If they are successful, the launch of the Starliner will take place on May 21 at 4:43 p.m. Eastern. However, given how important the upcoming flight is for Boeing, it is quite possible that this delay will not be the last.

According to

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