NASA And Boeing Will Hold A "Space-Is-Hard" Media Event Today

Starliner Returning to Factory to Resolve Valve Issue

"Today, Boeing informed NASA that the company will destack its CST-100 Starliner from the Atlas V rocket and return the spacecraft to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed after last Tuesday's scrubbed launch."

Keith's 1:00 pm EDT update: This just serves to confirm what I wrote earlier. Boeing and NASA have a big problem to deal with - a spacecraft that is simply not ready for prime time.

NASA, Boeing to Provide Update on Starliner's Orbital Flight Test-2

"NASA and Boeing are continuing discussions on the status of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, and will host a joint media teleconference at 1 p.m. EDT, Friday, Aug. 13, to discuss the second uncrewed flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station, as part of the agency's Commercial Crew Program."

Boeing Works to Open Starliner Valves, Determine Cause of Valve Issues

"Nine of the previously affected 13 valves are now open and functioning normally after the application of electrical and thermal techniques to prompt and command them open. Similar techniques are now being applied to the four valves that remain closed."

What in the Hell Is Going on With Boeing's Starliner?, Gizmodo

"Keith Cowing, a former NASA employee and editor of the site NASA Watch, made his opinion known yesterday in a painfully brief post: How--why--did this spacecraft--one that is supposed to eventually fly humans--ever make it to the launch pad without fully operational propulsion valves in the first place? Just wondering."

Keith's note: Boeing shipped this spacecraft to the pad with the full intention of launching it. The first time this design flew its software did not know what time it was or where the spacecraft was. Then this new, basic problem arose in a fundamental spacecraft system. Rolling back from the pad is a serious decision. Now, after a week fiddling with some equipment required for both nominal and contingency operations of this human-rated spacecraft, Boeing still has not fixed the problem.

You are likely going to hear that much more invasive work needs to be done - and that means prolonged delays in launching this vehicle. That also means that an army of Boeing and NASA safety people will parachute into this process and participate in months of work. Odds are that a launch will only happen in 2022. And even if that uncrewed mission is successful you are not likely to see a human crew on board until this time next year at the earliest. And there is an Atlas V waiting for something to do.

All of this costs Boeing money out of their pocket on top of the cost of dealing with OFT-1 remediation. Boeing only stands to get a certain amount of reimbursement from NASA for the crews that the agency will pay them to fly. Commercial missions are buying the only ride in town - SpaceX. As such a non-NASA revenue stream is simply not there for Boeing. At some point Boeing is going to have to either fix this spacecraft such that NASA and its crews wan to fly on it - or - Boeing is going to have to face the fiscal music and pull the plug on the whole misadventure. Stay tuned.

Today's media event will likely be summarized in a few sentences by most competent reporters. The rest of the event will be spent by both NASA and Boeing as they try too put a happy face on this and downplay the cold engineering reality and the potential impact on the program. And of course Kathy Lueders will say "space is hard" at some point in the briefing because that is all NASA knows how to say in these situations.

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This page contains a single entry by Keith Cowing published on August 13, 2021 1:21 PM.

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