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Boeing postpones 'cursed' Starliner mission - valve fixed but there was a 'small helium leak'

Boeing postpones 'cursed' Starliner mission - valve fixed but there was a 'small helium leak'
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The Starliner launch was halted a week ago due to a faulty oxygen valve. However, it turns out that the spacecraft has other issues.

On Tuesday, Boeing announced that the first manned flight of the Starliner has been postponed to May 21 - the mission was supposed to launch on the 6th, but was stopped due to an anomaly with the oxygen valve of the United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket. Eventually, the team replaced it, but specialists found another problem with a "small helium leak".

"The Starliner team is working to fix a small helium leak found in the spacecraft's service module," Boeing said in a statement. "NASA and Boeing are developing prompt solutions."

Boeing's goal is to become the second private company capable of providing crew transportation to and from the ISS (NASA contract valued at $4.3 billion), alongside SpaceX. Elon Musk's company reached the station for the first time in 2020 with its Dragon capsule, effectively ending nearly a decade of US dependence on Russian rockets.

Originally, the first unmanned test flight of the Starliner was planned for 2015, but was eventually postponed for 4 years. Ultimately, when the launch took place, software glitches caused the engines to restart - the spacecraft used too much fuel, so it never reached the ISS. The second attempt, originally planned for August 2021 but launched only in May 2022, was overall successful - although there were some questions about the performance of certain Starliner engines and cooling system.

Ultimately, when the Atlas V with the manned Starliner reaches orbit, the spacecraft will ignite its own engines and should reach the space station within 24 hours. Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will spend about a week there, while the spacecraft remains docked to the ISS. After that, they will return home aboard the Starliner, which is expected to land by parachute in one of several designated locations in the southwestern United States.

Source: Gizmodo

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