Starliner will make its first manned flight in July

Representatives of NASA and Boeing have confirmed that a test flight of the Starliner spacecraft will take place in July. This will be its first mission with people on board. By that time, engineers plan to finally overcome the deficiencies identified during previous tests.

Starliner capsule. Source: Boeing/John Grant

Starliner Flight

NASA and Boeing made a joint statement on May 26 regarding the test flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. They stated that despite the problems that arose all the time, they were working to ensure that its test flight would take place in July of this year. 

This will be the first manned mission of this private spacecraft. The two astronauts who are lucky enough to become its crew will be Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams. Their flight program provides for rendezvous and docking with the ISS.

Starliner already flew in unmanned mode a year ago. Then several disadvantages were found in the work of its systems. Over the past few months, specialists have been correcting them, and now it is known that the verification of all control points was completed last week.

What technical problems do the engineers have to solve?

NASA and Boeing experts say they have completed 95 percent of all certification work required for a Starliner flight. Among the problems they had to face was the replacement of a valve in the thermal control system in the service module of the spacecraft, which reduced the flow in one of the two redundant loops cooling the avionics of the spacecraft. Replacement of the valve will take about a week and should not affect the launch schedule of the CFT.

Engineers are also assessing whether the electrical tape used for electrical wiring may pose a risk of ignition. Although this tape is constantly used on other spacecraft, they are evaluating whether it is acceptable for the first manned flight. The organizations said an assessment should be made before a decision was made to refuel the spacecraft.

Another system that is being carefully checked is the Starliner parachutes. NASA and Boeing say they are reassessing parachute stocks, including the “overall effectiveness” of the connections in this system, to make sure they are achieving the necessary safety factors for a manned spacecraft. 

The announcement came a day after a public meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP), at which committee chair Patricia Sanders expressed concern about the possibility of completing work, such as parachute certification, before the scheduled July 21 launch. 

According to

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