Without repair: Starliner will be launched into space with a helium leak

NASA and Boeing experts decided not to eliminate the helium leak on the CST-100 Starliner. This made it possible to set a new launch date for the long-suffering spacecraft.

Starliner spacecraft (concept). Source: Boeing

Starliner was created by Boeing at the request of NASA. It is designed to deliver people and cargo to the ISS. It turned out to be a very problematic spacecraft. The Starliner’s construction and testing process was accompanied by a number of problems, which delayed the start of its manned flights for years.

Finally, NASA and Boeing have decided on the date of the first manned flight. It was scheduled for May 6. 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. This time was required to replace the valve.

Then a helium leak from the service module was discovered on the spacecraft. This gas is used to pressurize the Starliner propulsion system. As a result, the Starliner flight was postponed again.

And so, after studying the situation, NASA and Boeing experts came to the conclusion that the leak did not pose a threat to the mission. It originated in only one of the spacecraft’s 28 maneuvering engines, and its volume was small. Therefore, engineers will not repair the spacecraft. This made it possible to name a new launch date for the Starliner. It is scheduled for June 1. If there are no postponements, the rocket with the spacecraft will have to break away from the launch pad at 12:25 p.m. ET.

As part of its debut mission, Starliner will bring astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams aboard the ISS. They will spend eight days on board the station, after which they will return to Earth.

According to NASA