Science

Takeoff in February for the first manned flight of the Boeing capsule to the ISS

The first manned flight of the Boeing Starliner space capsule will take place in February 2023, the company and NASA, which wants to build a second vehicle for its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), said Thursday.

They have been traveling since 2020 aboard SpaceX ships to the ISS, but NASA wants to diversify its capabilities.

After a series of setbacks that delayed the Boeing program, including a failed flight in 2019, the company finally managed to reach the ISS for the first time last May – unmanned.

The company must now complete a second flight, this time manned, in order for the spacecraft to receive NASA approval and be able to launch regular missions at the expected frequency of once a year.

“We’re aiming for a February 2023 takeoff date,” Steve Stich, who is in charge of NASA’s manned commercial program, said during a press conference on Thursday.

Dubbed CFT (for Crew Flight Test), this test flight will feature two NASA astronauts, Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams.

They should stay on the ISS for about eight days, where they will take part in research activities carried out in the flying laboratory, said Joel Montalbano, ISS program director.

“Our goal as an agency is to launch two commercial providers in the US as soon as possible,” he said.

Boeing until recently hoped to be able to make this flight before the end of 2022.

But hitches during empty tests required adjustments to the car. The problem was found, in particular, in the propulsion system: the two engines used by the capsule to achieve the correct trajectory after takeoff were not working.

Boeing teams determined the problem was caused by “garbage” but were unable to determine with certainty where it came from, said Mark Nappi, the company’s program manager. The ship has been checked to make sure the wreckage does not belong to him.

The filters were also removed to solve the pressure problem and the software had to be updated to avoid too much data flow.

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