NASA, Boeing Prepare to Replace Starliner Service Modules Ahead of Upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2

Starliner technicians work on the Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft in the high bay of Boeing's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 13, 2022.
Starliner technicians work on the Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft in the high bay of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Jan. 13, 2022.

NASA and Boeing continue making progress toward the agency’s upcoming Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Teams recently completed offloading fuel from the OFT-2 spacecraft inside Starliner’s production factory at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for separating and replacing the current service module (SM2) from the crew module.

“The Starliner team and successful completion of the spacecraft’s development phase are critical to sustaining International Space Station operations through 2030,” said Steve Stich, manager, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “The team’s dedication to developing effective remedies and corrective action after our first OFT-2 launch attempt demonstrates their continued commitment to safely flying NASA crews for years to come.”

In December, Boeing decided to move up service modules currently in production for its upcoming uncrewed and crewed flight tests. The service module originally planned for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) is now being used for OFT-2, and the service module originally planned for Starliner’s first post-certification mission, Starliner-1, now will  be used for CFT.

With fuel offload complete, the spacecraft was moved out of the hazardous processing area and into the production factory high bay.

“Because this is not an operation that we normally perform, our team took the time to fully coordinate and assess the proper spacecraft and ground support equipment configurations, and then execute to plan to ensure the safety of our team,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.

Once separated in the coming weeks from the OFT-2 crew module, SM2 will be sent to NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico for additional testing related to the issue affecting the spacecraft’s oxidizer isolation valves.

The investigation into the valve issue continues to substantiate that the most probable cause is interaction of moisture with nitrogen tetroxide that permeates through the Teflon seal in the valve, leading to corrosion. Testing continues to fully understand how this occurrence affects the valves in various environments.

Tests include environmental seal evaluation and exposing valves, in a controlled setting, to temperatures and conditions similar to those the spacecraft experienced prior to the planned launch of OFT-2. The results of these tests will help in the ongoing development of remediation efforts to prevent similar issues on future service modules.

For example, the team designed a purging system that will be integrated into the spacecraft to protect the valves from potential exposure to moisture at the factory, launch complex, and launch pad.

Progress also continues with production of the new service module (SM4) that will go onto the OFT-2 crew module. That service module was recently moved from the low bay production area to the factory’s hazardous processing area for high pressure leak testing. Remaining tasks before mating this service module with the OFT-2 crew module include acceptance testing, final wire harness mating, installation of solar array panels, and final closeouts.

NASA and Boeing continue to work toward an opening in United Launch Alliance’s launch window availability in May for OFT-2. An actual launch date will be determined closer to spacecraft readiness, and with consideration of Eastern Range and International Space Station availability. Potential launch windows for CFT are under review and will be determined after a safe and successful OFT-2.

More details about the mission and NASA’s commercial crew program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo credit: Boeing

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

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: https://www.nasa.gov/live.

To participate in the teleconference, media must contact ksc-newsroom@mail.nasa.gov 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.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at: https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew.

 

Starliner Returns to Factory, Preparations Underway to Resolve Valve Issue

OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returned Aug. 19, 2021, from the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where teams will work to diagnose and resolve a valve issue detected during the Aug. 3 launch attempt of NASA Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2. Photo credit: Boeing

Teams from Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) safely returned the CST-100 Starliner to its production facility in Florida on Aug. 19 for continued work on the spacecraft’s service module propulsion system.

The Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft was removed from its Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and returned to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The team now will perform propulsion system checkouts inside the factory’s hazardous processing area and determine the appropriate vehicle configuration for accessing and analyzing the system further. NASA and Boeing will recommend forward work as part of a formal process designed to aid in determining root cause and remediation steps.

In the weeks ahead, engineering teams from NASA and Boeing will work to diagnose and ultimately resolve a valve issue detected during the Aug. 3 countdown for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2, and resulted in the decision to postpone the launch destined for the International Space Station.

NASA, Boeing, and ULA will establish a new launch date once the issue is resolved.

NASA, Boeing to Move Starliner to Production Facility for Propulsion System Evaluation

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is in view in the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Aug. 9, 2021.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is in view in the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Aug. 9, 2021. Photo credit: Boeing

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, Boeing Make Progress on Starliner Valve Issue

Boeing engineers continue work at the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility on the Starliner propulsion system valves.
Boeing engineers continue work at the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility on the Starliner propulsion system valves. Photo credit: Boeing

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.

Boeing Starliner Returned to Vertical Integration Facility for Testing

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen near the Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo by NASA/Joel Kowsky

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’s Boeing OFT-2: Launch Scrubbed for Aug. 3. Attempt

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner atop is on the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Aug. 3, 2021.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner atop is on the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Aug. 3, 2021. Photo credit: NASA

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.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/.

Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

Orbital Flight Test-2 Starliner, Atlas V Roll Return to Launch Pad

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Thursday, July 29, 2021 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 will be Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Thursday, July 29, 2021 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 will be Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

This morning, Aug. 2, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket rolled out of the ULA Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to return to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida ahead of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Starliner and the Atlas V rocket made the first trip to the launch pad on July 29, but rolled back to the VIF on July 30 to avoid potential inclement weather.

For a launch Tuesday, meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 60% chance of favorable weather. The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule, and thick cloud rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.

NASA TV will cover the upcoming prelaunch, launch, and docking activities. Mission coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):

Tuesday, Aug. 3

12:30 p.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for a targeted 1:20 p.m. liftoff. NASA TV will have continuous coverage through Starliner orbital insertion.

3:30 p.m. (approximately) – Postlaunch news conference on NASA TV.

Wednesday, Aug. 4

10:30 a.m. – NASA TV rendezvous and docking coverage begins.

1:37 p.m. (scheduled) – Docking

Thursday, Aug. 5

8:30 a.m. – NASA TV hatch opening coverage begins

8:40 a.m. – Hatch opening

9:40 a.m. (approximately) – Welcoming remarks

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Orbital Flight Test-2 Starliner, Atlas V Roll Back to Vertical Integration Facility

On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 is an important uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 is an important uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket was rolled back from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida to ULA’s nearby Vertical Integration Facility on July 30 to avoid potential inclement weather in advance of Orbital Flight Test-2’s (OFT-2) launch to the International Space Station.

NASA and Boeing agreed to stand down from the July 30 attempt to allow the space station team time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos’ Nauka module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival. The earliest possible launch opportunity to the space station is no earlier than 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 3, from Space Launch Complex-41.

The U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 60% chance of favorable conditions for the Aug. 3 launch opportunity with the cumulous cloud rule, surface electric fields rule, and the lighting rule as the primary weather concerns.

The OFT-2 mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States.

Learn more about NASA’s commercial crew program by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

Update to NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 Mission

Image of NASA insignia.NASA and Boeing have decided to stand down from Friday’s launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. Currently, launch teams are assessing the next available opportunity. The move allows the International Space Station team time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos’ Nauka module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival.

Learn more about station activities by following the space station blog@space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

More details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.