Boeing has postponed the unscrewed flight of its Starliner capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) due to an engine problem, postponing at least a day the key test it last tried in 2019.
Boeing engineers ruled out “a number of potential causes, including software,” but were still working to understand the source of the “unexpected valve position readings” in the propulsion system, Boeing said in a statement.
“Additional time is needed to complete the assessment,” Boeing said, adding that the next potential launch window on Wednesday would also not continue.
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The test flight was scheduled to take place on Friday, but it had to be postponed after a new Russian science module inadvertently released the engines after docking with the ISS, pushing the orbital outpost out of the filter.
After NASA completed the spacecraft program in 2011, it gave contracts to Boeing and SpaceX for a billion dollars to provide its astronauts with taxi services for the space station and end U.S. dependence on Russian rockets on that voyage.
The SpaceX program has progressed faster, now it has conducted three missions with the crew.
The Boeing program is lagging behind, and it needs to complete a successful unscrewed mission before it can carry astronauts.
During the initial test flight in December 2019, the Starliner capsule had software crashes that caused problems with the way the engines started.
As a result, Starliner did not have enough fuel to get to the ISS, and he had to return to Earth prematurely, and subsequent research showed that he almost felt a terrible flight anomaly when re-entering the atmosphere.
NASA later called the mission “high visibility,” a rare designation intended for near-disasters.
Steve Stitch, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, told reporters last week that this time he was confident.
“We want everything to go well, we expect it to be good, and we have done all the preparations we can do,” he said.
“The Starliner is a great vehicle, but we know how hard it is, and it’s also a test flight, and I totally expect that we’ll learn something on this test flight.”
When it flies, the spacecraft will transport more than 180 pounds (180 kilograms) of cargo and crew to the ISS and return more than 550 pounds of cargo, including air tanks, when it lands in the western U.S. desert at the end of its mission.