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Leaky valve issue forces Boeing to swap out Starliner’s service module

Enlarge / In early December 2019, the Starliner spacecraft is mated to its Atlas V rocket. (credit: Trevor Mahlmann)

Nearly two years have now come and gone since Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft made its unsuccessful debut test flight, launching on December 20, 2019. Now, finally, there is some clarity on when the vehicle may launch again and attempt to dock with the International Space Station.

NASA and Boeing said Monday that they were working toward a launch of Starliner in May 2022. To accommodate this launch date for the “Orbital Flight-2” or OFT mission, Boeing will swap out a faulty service module—which provides power and propulsion to the Starliner capsule in flight—with a new one.

Boeing initially tried to fly OFT-2 in August. However, with less than five hours remaining in the countdown to launch, during a routine procedure, 13 of the 24 valves that control the flow of dinitrogen tetroxide oxidizer through the service module of the spacecraft would not cycle between closed and open. The launch was aborted.

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