Starliner crew docks with International Space Station after series of events

After a few tense moments, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams arrived safely at the International Space Station shortly after 1:30 p.m. Thursday.

“It’s nice to be tethered to the big city in the sky,” Wilmore said as the initial docking was confirmed.

Docking was delayed by more than an hour from the original docking time of 12:15 p.m. EDT due to post-launch issues. During the crew’s rest period, teams discovered two additional helium leaks from the service module, bringing the number to three in total, explaining the leak that contributed to the long launch delay last month .

NASA and Boeing officials have repeatedly emphasized that Starliner’s systems are designed to provide high redundancy, meaning that in the event of a failure, there are other options. New problems arose as Starliner approached the station. Control teams suspended docking while five thrusters were offline.

As the space station and Starliner drifted in and out of the orbital night, it remained to be seen whether Boeing could pull off this important flight. But it didn’t take long for the docking to be confirmed and the astronauts to safely enter the station.

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Starliner crewed flight test reaches space

Launched atop an Atlas V rocket, Boeing’s Starliner made its first crewed launch about 26 hours before docking.

This launch followed a May 6 scrub caused by a faulty oxygen valve on the second stage of the Atlas V rocket. What followed was a delay of about a month when teams discovered an oxygen leak. helium on the Starliner spacecraft, which was later reduced to a propellant. Officials said their analysis showed that even with the leak, the Starliner could still get the crew home safely even in a worst-case scenario, allowing them to continue despite the leak.

The Starliner launch was canceled a second time on June 1 due to problems with the prompts given to the Atlas V rocket during the latter part of the countdown.

On June 5, the third attempt proved to be the right time. Starliner lifted off from the pad and into orbit for what appeared to be a smooth flight. No issues were reported during a post-launch press briefing.

However, while the crew slept that night, ground crews detected two additional helium leaks from the spacecraft’s service module, the disposable bottom of the spacecraft that contains the thrusters. This is the same area as the original helium leak, believed to be caused by a faulty seal.

“We went back a few days later and proved the leak was stable,” Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of the Commercial Crew Program at Boeing, said at a NASA press briefing in late May. .

Officials said if a service module thruster leaks again, the system could handle up to four additional leaks.

NASA published on X (formerly Twitter): “The teams have…

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