Boeing’s Starliner space capsule developed a fifth helium leak. Is there cause for concern?

Despite the five leaks, the Starliner has enough helium in its tanks to support 70 hours of free flight activity.
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La cápsula espacial Starliner de Boeing

Boeing’s Starliner space capsule, which recently lifted off for the International Space Station (ISS) on its first test flight, developed a fifth helium leak that, along with the other four, is being carefully monitored by NASA. An Agency announcement clarifies that these leaks do not pose a risk to astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams, who traveled aboard the spacecraft to manually test all of its systems and will return to Earth on it.

Helium leaks in the Starliner space capsule

NASA engineers evaluated the helium supply based on current leak rates and determined that the Starliner has sufficient margin to support the return trip from the ISS. According to a NASA statement According to a NASA statement, “Only seven hours of free flight is required to perform a normal mission end, and Starliner currently has enough helium in its tanks to support 70 hours of free flight activity after undocking.”

Of the five leaks, one was detected two weeks prior to launch and was deemed non-safety critical and was not repaired. The other four emerged progressively during the flight and after docking of the capsule to the Harmony module of the ISS.

Boeing’s Starliner flight attempts

Initially, the launch was planned for May 6 last year; however, the same however, it was completed on June 5 was completed on June 5 . All of the delays to liftoff allowed Wilmore and Williams to conduct a spacewalk and the technical teams to continue Starliner checks and monitoring.

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In addition to the helium leaks, the capsule experienced problems in five of its 28 reaction control system (RCS) thrusters during its journey to the ISS. Although four of these thrusters were repaired, one remains out of service and will be tested at the end of the mission.

While in orbit, Wilmore and Williams are also evaluating their Boeing Blue spacesuits and other aspects of the spacecraft. Both astronauts have praised the vehicle’s performance, highlighting its precision.

When does the Boeing Starliner return?

NASA and Boeing have announced that the Starliner’s crewed flight test mission is scheduled to return to Earth no earlier than Saturday, June 22. This date allows the team to finalize departure operations and planning, ensuring that the spacecraft is ready for emergency return scenarios within established flight rules.

Leaders from both organizations will discuss details of the new return target, flight status and weather considerations during a 12 p.m. media teleconference. EDT on Tuesday, June 18. Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, mentioned that the crew will perform additional operations to evaluate hatch handling and piloting using the forward window.

The Starliner crew has been performing various tests and tasks since its arrival at the International Space Station. In addition, seven of the spacecraft’s eight rearward-facing thrusters are planned to ignite while docked at the ISS in a “hot-fire test” to evaluate their performance for future missions.

Pending spacecraft readiness and favorable weather conditions, the Starliner will undock from the space station for a parachute- and airbag-assisted landing in the southwestern United States.

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Source: eldebate

Photo: shutterstock

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