NASA and Boeing prepare to replace Starliner service modules before mission to space station
">Nasa and Boeing continue to make progress on the agency’s next Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Crews recently completed offloading fuel from the OFT-2 spacecraft inside the Starliner production facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for separating and replacing the current service module (SM2 ) of the crew module.
“The Starliner team and the successful completion of the spacecraft development phase are critical to sustaining International Space Station operations through 2030,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich. . “The team’s dedication to developing effective remedies and corrective measures after our first attempt to launch OFT-2 demonstrates their continued commitment to keeping NASA crews flying safely for years to come.”
In December, Boeing decided to move the service modules currently in production for its upcoming uncrewed and crewed flight tests. The service module originally planned for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) is now used for OFT-2, and the service module originally planned for Starliner’s first post-certification mission, Starliner-1, will now be used for CFT.
Once fuel offloading was complete, the spacecraft was moved out of the hazardous processing area and into the large production plant bay.
“Because this is not an operation we normally perform, our team took the time to fully coordinate and assess the appropriate spacecraft and ground support equipment configurations and then execute them. to plan ahead to keep our team safe,” said John Vollmer, vice president. President and Program Director, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.
Once separated in the coming weeks from the OFT-2 crew module, SM2 will be sent to NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico for further testing related to the issue affecting the air valves. isolation of the spacecraft oxidant.
Investigation of the valve problem continues to prove that the most likely cause is the interaction of moisture with nitrogen tetroxide entering through the valve’s Teflon seal, resulting in corrosion. Testing continues to fully understand how this event affects valves in various environments.
The tests include evaluating the environmental seal and exposing the valves, in a controlled setting, to temperatures and conditions similar to those the spacecraft experienced prior to the planned launch of OFT-2. The results of these tests will contribute to the continued development of remediation efforts to prevent similar issues on future service modules.
For example, the team has designed a purge system that will be integrated into the spacecraft to protect the valves from potential exposure to moisture at the plant, launch complex and launch pad.
Progress is also continuing with the production of the new service module (SM4) which will go on the OFT-2 crew module. This service module was recently moved from the low bay production area to the factory hazardous processing area for high pressure leak testing. The remaining tasks before mating this service module with the OFT-2 crew module include acceptance testing, final wiring harness mating, solar panel installation, and final shutdowns.
NASA and Boeing continue to work toward opening United Launch Alliance launch window availability in May for OFT-2. An actual launch date will be determined closer to the readiness of the spacecraft and taking into account the availability of eastern range and the International Space Station. Potential launch windows for CFT are under review and will be determined after a safe and successful OFT-2.