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NASA/Boeing/ULA confirm new June 1st launch date for Starliner

In a press briefing this morning officials from NASA, Boeing, and ULA confirmed the new June 1, 12:25 pm (Eastern) launch date for the first manned flight of Boeing’s Starliner manned capsule.

The officials provided a more detailed explanation of the helium leak in a valve that effects the capsule’s service module attitude thruster system, noting that it is not a design flaw but some specific issue in this particular valve. Because of this, they are confident the system can function safely even with the leak, which is relatively small.

However, the officials also noted that during their reviews in the past two weeks they discovered a new software issue in the spacecraft’s de-orbit engines that — under very unusual and unlikely circumstances — could actually cause those engines to fail to operate. They have figured out a work-around, whereby they fire the engines at a lower thrust in two stages rather than once.

Should the launch on June 1st be scrubbed for weather, they have back up dates on the next few days, though by June 4th ULA might have to swap out batteries on its Atlas-5 rocket that will require a longer stand down of several additional days.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

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  • Doubting Thomas

    Boeing keeps discovering little Easter Eggs of doom in their software.

    Makes me wonder if the system can ever do the design mission of lasting six months in orbit and then return home safely.

  • Jeff Wright

    Mercury had toggle switches instead of software

  • John

    Well maybe the helium leak saved a thruster disaster.

    You can’t do anything of significance without assuming some risk. But they do find something wrong with this thing every time they do something with it.

    I really think there should be another unmanned flight.

  • Jeff Wright

    I think Starliner’s flight will be an awesome chance to see how well capsules handle the Earth’s atmosphere bloated from the Sun going Red Giant.

    The view of the new supercontinent below will be staggering I trust.

  • Edward

    Jeff Wright wrote: “Mercury had toggle switches instead of software

    Well, the Man In Space Soonest (MISS) project kept to the philosophy of Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS).

    Perhaps Musk’s philosophy of “the best part is no part” translates to programming: “the best line is no line” of computer code.

  • pawn

    Helium leaks are a dime a dozen. Pretty much everything leaks helium, it just depends on how much. Helium leak detectors can sense leaks that would take years for any appreciable leak would depressurize a tank.

    A helium leak rate which is barely detectable under ideal conditions) of 1×10-9 atm cc/sec is equivalent to a cc of He in 30 years.

    Real leak rates are much larger but things can get complicated when there are other sources of helium around, like other leaks. You have to get creative with bagging to isolate the source.

    The helium leak checks in the Shuttle aft were notoriously difficult to deal with.

    I am pretty sure they have quantified the level of risk from the leak pretty well.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Jeff Wright – “Mercury had toggle switches instead of software”

    I listened to a lecture, as a youth in my early teens, by a gentleman from McDonnell Aircraft Corporation who had been part of the Mercury capsule development. I remember seeing pictures of the control system consisting of electronic packages made up of pre integrated circuit components and in the case of the suborbital flights, at least one mechanical timer.

    I guess today you would describe the Project Mercury control system as early firmware and wetware.

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