NASA and Boeing will hold a joint teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 19, to update media on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Teams will discuss work on the oxidizer isolation valve issue that was discovered ahead of the planned uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station in August.
Participants in the briefing will be:
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
Michelle Parker, chief engineer, Boeing Space and Launch
To participate in the teleconference, media must contact firstname.lastname@example.org by 1:30 p.m. Oct. 19 for the dial-in information.
The OFT-2 mission will launch Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will dock to the space station before returning to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test flight to prove the system is ready to fly crew.
Editor’s note: This blog was updated Oct. 8 to reflect that the team is working toward launch opportunities in the first half of 2022 for Orbital Flight Test-2.
The NASA, Boeing team continues to make progress on the investigation of the oxidizer isolation valve issue on the Starliner service module propulsion system that was discovered ahead of the planned uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station in August.
“I am proud of the work our integrated teams are doing,” said Steve Stich, manager of the Commercial Crew Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “This is a complex issue involving hazardous commodities and intricate areas of the spacecraft that are not easily accessed. It has taken a methodical approach and sound engineering to effectively examine.”
Boeing has demonstrated success in valve functionality using localized heating and electrical charging techniques. Troubleshooting on the pad, at the launch complex, and inside the Starliner production factory at Kennedy Space Center has resulted in movement of all but one of the original stuck valves. That valve has not been moved intentionally to preserve forensics for direct root cause analysis.
Most items on the fault tree have been dispositioned by the team including causes related to avionics, flight software and wiring. Boeing has identified a most probable cause related to oxidizer and moisture interactions, and although some verification work remains underway, our confidence is high enough that we are commencing corrective and preventive actions. Additional spacecraft and component testing will be conducted in the coming weeks to further explore contributing factors and necessary system remediation before flight.
Boeing completed a partial disassembly of three of the affected Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control (OMAC) thruster valves last month and plans to remove three valves from the OFT-2 spacecraft in the coming weeks for further inspection. The team also is evaluating additional testing to repeat the initial valve failures.
Boeing has identified several paths forward depending on the outcome of the testing to ultimately resolve the issue and prevent it from happening on future flights. These options could range from minor refurbishment of the current service module components to using another service module already in production. Each option is dependent on data points the team expects to collect in the coming weeks including a timeline for safely proceeding back to the launch pad.
“Safety of the Starliner spacecraft, our employees, and our crew members is this team’s number one priority,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Starliner program. “We are taking the appropriate amount of time to work through the process now to set this system up for success on OFT-2 and all future Starliner missions.”
Potential launch windows for OFT-2 continue to be assessed by NASA, Boeing, United Launch Alliance, and the Eastern Range. The team currently is working toward opportunities in the first half of 2022 pending hardware readiness, the rocket manifest, and space station availability.
NASA and Boeing have decided to postpone the launch of Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station as teams continue work on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.
Engineering teams have been working to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system from inside United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility that did not open as designed during the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 launch attempt. The valves connect to thrusters that enable abort and in-orbit maneuvering.
“We made a lot of progress to open the valves from inside the Vertical Integration Facility, and the NASA-Boeing teams did a great job doing everything we could to get ready for this launch opportunity,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “Although we wanted to see Starliner fly in this window, it’s critical that our primary focus is the safety of the crew transportation system – for the safety of the space station and the crew members that will be flying on these vehicles. We’ll only fly this test when we think we are ready, and can complete the mission objectives.”
Inside the VIF, Boeing was able to prompt nine of 13 valves open that previously were in the closed position using commanding, mechanical, electrical and thermal techniques. Teams will now begin the process to move Starliner back to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed and more detailed analysis on the spacecraft.
“Mission success in human spaceflight depends on thousands of factors coming together at the right time,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “We’ll continue to work the issue from the Starliner factory and have decided to stand down for this launch window to make way for other national priority missions.”
NASA, Boeing and ULA will establish a new launch date once the issue is resolved.
NASA and Boeing continued work over the weekend and Monday morning on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft service module propulsion system in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station.
Work progressed to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system that did not open as designed during the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 launch attempt. The valves connect to thrusters that enable abort and in-orbit maneuvering.
With the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V and Starliner in the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) near Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, engineering teams are able to power on Starliner allowing the vehicle to receive commands, and have direct access to the spacecraft for troubleshooting.
Inside the VIF, Boeing has been able to command seven of 13 valves open that previously were in the closed position. Test teams are applying mechanical, electrical and thermal techniques to prompt the valves to open, and are moving forward with a systematic plan to open the remainder of the affected valves, demonstrate repeatable system performance, and verify the root cause of the issue before returning Starliner to the launch pad for its Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.
Boeing also has completed physical inspections and chemical sampling on the exterior of a number of the affected valves, which indicated no signs of damage or external corrosion.
In the coming days, NASA and Boeing will continue work to bring all affected valves into the proper configuration. If all valve functionality can be restored and root cause identified, NASA will work with Boeing to determine a path to flight for the important uncrewed mission to the space station.
NASA, Boeing and ULA are assessing the potential for several launch opportunities with the earliest available in mid-August. Any launch date options would protect for the planetary window for the agency’s Lucy mission – the first-ever mission to explore Trojan asteroids.
NASA and Boeing are continuing to work through steps to determine what caused the unexpected valve position indications on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system during the countdown for its Aug. 3 launch attempt.
Now that the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with the Starliner spacecraft on top has been returned to its Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, engineers will have direct access to Starliner with the assembly of support structures around the spacecraft’s service module for continued troubleshooting.
Boeing will power up Starliner, allowing the vehicle to receive commands providing the teams with real-time data.
The data will drive any corrective measures that may be necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for launch. When NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Boeing agree the issue is resolved, a new launch opportunity will be selected, taking into account the readiness of all parties involved and the availability of the International Space Station and its crew to support the spacecraft’s arrival.
NASA and Boeing are standing down from the Wednesday, Aug. 4, launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station as mission teams continue to examine the cause of the unexpected valve position indications on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.
Early in the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 attempt, mission teams detected indications that not all valves were in the proper configuration needed for launch. Mission teams decided to halt the countdown to further analyze the issue.
NASA and Boeing worked through several steps to troubleshoot the incorrect valve indications, including cycling the service module propulsion system valves, within the current configuration of the Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Mission teams have decided to roll the Atlas V and Starliner back to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) for further inspection and testing where access to the spacecraft is available. Boeing will power down the Starliner spacecraft this evening. The move to the VIF is expected to take place as early as tomorrow.
Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment.
NASA and Boeing will take whatever time is necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for its important uncrewed flight test to the space station and will look for the next available opportunity after resolution of the issue.
NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have scrubbed the Aug. 3 launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station due to unexpected valve position indications in the Starliner propulsion system. ULA will begin removing propellant from the Atlas V rocket.
Pending resolution of the forward work, our next available launch opportunity would be 12:57 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 4.
For more information on the technical issue, click here.
We asked our virtual guests what they would take with them as a zero-gravity indicator if they were launching on the Boeing Starliner spacecraft on July 30 for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. More than 2,600 of you responded. Two large categories of items emerged: stuffed animals and balls.
Nearly 10% of people suggested something stuffed. This is a traditional category for zero-gravity indicators. Some guests suggested very specific stuffed animals – Snoopy, Baby Yoda, Fiona the hippo from the Cincinnati Zoo, or a something that had been in their family for multiple generations.
We don’t know where they’re shopping, but a few guests suggested stuffed people, Tory Bruno of United Launch Alliance, Jeff Goldblum, and Patrick Star from Sponge Bob fame to be exact. One guest had the lovely idea that “stuffed animals of some sort that would then be donated to sick children.”
Another 10% of respondents suggested some type of ball – or every type of ball. There were tennis balls, baseballs, bouncy balls, disco balls, cannon balls, and balls of yarn. There was the very specific Euro 2020 official football. Finally, there was a handful of very wise respondents packing stress balls.
Water was another frequent suggestion – sometimes with a goldfish in it for good measure, sometimes with an eye toward drinking it if need be! Balloons, books, and M&M’s also were mentioned in multiples. The few suggestions of glitter would no doubt be to the consternation of Starliner engineers! One guest hurt our heads by suggesting “a toy Starliner with a smaller Starliner inside the toy, and to check for zero gravity we look inside the toy to see if the smaller Starliner is floating.”
Our favorite suggestion? A clear cube containing everyone’s name on a card who registered for the event. We’d have trouble fitting the more than 13,000 of you there! But we love the thought.
We’d love to have you along for the next virtual guest program – you can join our standing list or register for specific upcoming missions by visiting nasa.gov/virtualguest. In addition to sharing their thoughts on a launch-related question, virtual guests receive emails with curated launch resources, notifications about NASA activities, and updates on any launch time or date changes.
Whether it’s your first stamp or your eighth, NASA hopes you’ll print, fold, and get ready to fill your virtual passport. Stamps will be emailed following docking to all virtual attendees who registered by email.
Liftoff of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Starliner is targeted for 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The rollout of the Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V launch vehicle is now targeted for Thursday, July 29 at 8 a.m. EDT.
The delay is due to an internet service provider outage that could not be resolved before the onset of predicted weather exceeding operational constraints. The OFT-2 launch, planned for Friday, July 30, at 2:53 p.m. EDT, remains on track.
Teams from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance completed a launch readiness review on July 27 ahead of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station. The launch teams still are “go” for launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the microgravity laboratory on the company’s second uncrewed flight test.
Launch is scheduled at 2:53 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
At 1 p.m., NASA will host a prelaunch news briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Participants are:
Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
Gary Wentz, vice president, Government and Commercial Programs, ULA
Jennifer Buchli, deputy chief scientist, NASA’s International Space Station Program
Will Ulrich, launch weather officer, U.S. Space Force, 45th Weather Squadron
For a launch Friday, meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather. The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus cloud rule, surface electric rule and lightning rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.