Boeing says its next attempt to send an uncrewed Starliner space taxi to the International Space Station will take place no earlier than the first half of 2022, due to the time needed to fix a valve problem that led to the last-minute cancellation of an August test flight.
Engineers say the problem in August was apparently caused by moisture that got into the spacecraft and reacted with oxidizer in the propulsion system, resulting in corrosion that gummed up the valves. To make sure, two of the valves will undergo CT scans at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. The fix could involve installing extra heaters to dissipate moisture, or loading propellant during a later stage of launch preparations, Boeing officials said today during a NASA news briefing.
The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test, or OFT-2, will be a rerun of an unsuccessful test flight that took place in December 2019. Boeing has set aside $410 million to pay for the reflight. The current plan calls for Starliner’s first crewed mission to take place about six months after a successful uncrewed test. In the meantime, NASA is relying on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon (and Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft) to transport astronauts.