Boeing’s plans for Starliner Space Taxi hit due to Engine FaultJuly 23, 2018
Boeing confirms that it experienced irregularity last month while testing engine that would be used on CST-100 Starliner space taxi in a launch emergency event.
Although no hardware was destroyed, the irregularity lead to an unwanted leak of propellant, the problem is likely to contribute to more delays for NASA’s plan to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station on the Starliner.
As per the current flight schedule for the first flights of the Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is due to be released within the next week or two. The most recently issued schedule, which is out of date, called for uncrewed and crewed demonstration flights to take place by the end of 2018
. In a current statement, Boeing confirmed that the anomaly came at the end of a hot-fire test of the launch abort engines at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. The firing was conducted in preparation for a full test of the launch abort system, a crucial milestone in the Starliner development effort.
“The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration,” Boeing said. “During engine shutdown an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak.”
The engines, built for Boeing by Aerojet Rocketdyne, are designed to push the Starliner away from its United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket if an emergency cropped up on the launch pad or during ascent. Each of the two launch abort engines can deliver 40,000 pounds of thrust.
Boeing’s development plan calls for conducting a full launch abort test, then an uncrewed demonstration flight to the space station, and then a crewed flight.
In its statement, Boeing confidently announced that it had found the cause of the anomaly and was “moving forward with corrective action.” An operational fix could resolve the issue and minimize the impact on the schedule ahead.
Boeing said such irregularities were a common behaviour of any test program.
“These are the reasons that we do these tests,” Boeing spokesman
While Boeing works through its Starliner issues, SpaceX is ramping up for further tests of its Crew Dragon, an upgraded version of the Dragon spacecraft that’s already being used for uncrewed cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.
Last month, the Crew Dragon that’s decided to fly on SpaceX’s uncrewed demonstration mission arrived in Florida for a final round of pre-launch preparations.
The demonstration mission, known as SpaceX DM-1, will be followed by an in-flight abort test, and after that with a crewed demonstration flight to the space station.
In next month, Vice President Mike Pence is expected to visit Florida to announce the revised flight schedule and crew assignments for the Boeing and SpaceX demonstration flights.