Technical Setbacks Postpone Boeing's Starliner Mission

Boeing's highly anticipated first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with its Starliner spacecraft has been temporarily grounded.

by Faruk Imamovic
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Technical Setbacks Postpone Boeing's Starliner Mission

Boeing's highly anticipated first crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) with its Starliner spacecraft has been temporarily grounded, the aerospace giant announced earlier this week. Initially set for a July 21 departure, unforeseen technical glitches have forced a reconsideration of the launch schedule, marking yet another hiccup in the spacecraft's path to space.

Boeing, in collaboration with the US space agency NASA, declared the delay in their Crew Flight Test mission following the discovery of two fresh technical complications with the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, highlighted by their engineers.

The postponement adds to the list of past technical issues that have beleaguered the spacecraft, further intensifying the pressure on both Boeing and NASA.

Discovering the Technical Hurdles

"It's feasible, but I certainly wouldn't want to commit to any dates or timeframes," said Mark Nappi, Boeing Starliner program manager and vice president, in a press conference on Thursday, June 1.

"We need to spend the next several days understanding what we need to do to solve these problems." The first problem pertains to the aircraft's parachute system. Boeing’s Starliner capsule was designed to return to Earth using a triad of parachutes, a strategy that is now under scrutiny.

The New York Times revealed that engineers had found parts of the system connecting to the capsule unable to bear the spacecraft's weight should two of the three parachutes be deployed.

Safety Precautions Paramount for Crewed Missions

In light of the Starliner capsule being crewed upon return to Earth, Boeing needs to thoroughly inspect every component of the spacecraft, prioritizing safety above all else.

The company anticipates an additional parachute test before announcing a revised date for the launch attempt. Apart from the parachute issue, Boeing has expressed concerns over the use of a particular adhesive tape for insulating wires.

Fears that the tape could be combustible have prompted engineers to explore alternative materials for parts of the spacecraft most susceptible to fire. "It's highly unlikely that we would go in and cut this tape off," explained Nappi, underlining that such action might cause further potential damage.

"So we're looking at solutions that would provide for essentially another type of wrapping over the existing tape in the most vulnerable areas that reduces the risk of fire hazard."

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