NASA delayed the test flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft after the International Space Station (ISS) received an unplanned impact during the docking of the Nauka science module.
The thrusters of the Russian equipment were triggered unexpectedly, causing the station to move 45 degrees out of normal altitude. At the time, cosmonauts Oleg Novitskiy and Pyotr Dubrov were in the process of “integrating” the new spacecraft with ISS computer systems.
Despite the incident, the space station crew was not in danger. The situation was quickly brought under control using the engines of the Zvezda module, where the Nauka was docked, and the engines of the Progress cargo ship.
Postponement for checks
According to the US space agency, the postponement will allow the ISS team to perform a full check on the newly attached module “to ensure the station is ready for Starliner’s arrival.”
The launch was scheduled for Friday (30), at 3:53 pm Brasília time. There is still no new official date for Starliner’s unmanned mission. The next window of opportunity for release will be on Tuesday, August 3rd at 2:20 pm.
Second unmanned test
Starliner is Boeing’s entry into NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which currently relies only on SpaceX spacecraft to transport astronauts to the ISS. Elon Musk’s company has already transported astronauts to the space station on two flights with Crew Dragon, while Boeing has yet to complete its unmanned tests.
The postponed launch will be the Starliner capsule’s second attempt to demonstrate its safety. On the first test flight carried out in December 2019, the spacecraft failed to reach the ISS mainly due to software problems, but managed to land safely soon after the mission began.
In 2020, Boeing decided to redo the demonstration mission on its own to ensure that all objectives are met before astronauts use the spacecraft.