Following an engine failure during another test carried out in June, Boeing has decided against carrying on with the tests, instead delaying two critical ones, with regards to its CST-100 Starliner crew capsule. This will ensure that the planned launch of its operations won’t take place until 2019, where it would be used for ferrying crew to and from the International Space Station among other in-orbit locations as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The change of plans was revealed in a press conference by Boeing.
Boeing stated that the debut unmanned flight test concerning the seven passenger capsule, which would be using an Atlas V rocket, has been shifted from August this year to the later part of 2019, or even during the next year. Subsequent test with an on board crew has been postponed till mid-2019. Testing of the capsule’s critical pad abort system has been moved to early 2019. The testing issues developed included the malfunctioning of valves leading to a toxic hypergolic propellant leak, which thankfully did not cause any injuries or damage to equipment. John Mulholland, VP and program manager of Starliner, reported that they were working round the clock on corrective actions. Even though Boeing claims that the test program is 80% complete as of now, the Government Accountability Office has been proved right in its claims that the Commercial Crew Program will be falling behind schedule, with both Boeing and competitor SpaceX facing similar issues. The first Starliner crew is expected to be this Friday.
Meanwhile, NASA is gearing up to pay a visit to the Sun, with the Parker Solar Probe expected to lift up from the Kennedy Space Center on the 11th of August this year. This will be mankind’s first visit to Earth’s nearest star, with the probe moving through the red hot planet, suffering unbearable heat and radiation, to provide mankind with the closest observations concerning a star. The $1.6 billion project was first considered in 1958, and will be explaining the physics of such stars, while also aiming to improve space weather events’ forecasts which impact mankind. The measurement of the Sun’s electric and magnetic fields, and solar winds, among other phenomena will be done through six on-board instruments. The mission is expected to cover 24 orbits around the star in seven years’ time.