boeing starliner capsule

Starliner space capsule faces delays as rocket separation deemed necessary

Image credit: nasa

The launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space capsule will likely be delayed by several months as it needs to be removed from atop a rocket so that repairs can be carried out, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) has reported.

The troubled project has faced extensive delays and technical issues throughout its decade-long development, including a last-minute glitch in a test launch earlier this month that forced Boeing to abandon attempts to send it to the International Space Station (ISS).

Since then, its engineers have been trying to tackle an issue causing 13 of Starliner’s valves not to open that was only discovered while it was siting on the launchpad ready to blast off. Boeing said that it has now got nine of the valves to function normally and is still working to address the other four.

The test flight was supposed to see Starliner carry supplies and test equipment to the ISS in order to demonstrate its capabilities in launching, docking, and then re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere while performing a safe desert landing.

Citing people “familiar with the matter”, the WSJ said that it became increasingly apparent that the capsule would need to be separated from the rocket to allow engineers to fix Starliner’s various issues.

Both Boeing and Nasa have said they have not abandoned attempts to try for a do-over later this month, although the WSJ report would suggest this is becoming increasingly unlikely.

The Starliner has been designed to take people to and from a low-earth orbit and is competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to take Nasa astronauts to the space station from the United States.

Boeing’s previous attempt at an uncrewed test flight in 2019 ended in failure due to an unforeseen software glitch. While the capsule was able to reach orbit and land safely, a software problem prevented it from docking successfully with the ISS.

Boeing has already been awarded $5.1bn from Nasa to develop the capsule compared to just $3.1bn for SpaceX.

Earlier this week, SpaceX purchased the satellite start-up Swarm Technologies as it looks to expand its communications network of small satellites.

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