Helium Leak Delays NASA and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Crewed Flight – What’s Next?

Washington, DC – NASA and Boeing are facing yet another delay in the first crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, this time due to a helium leak in the propulsion system. The Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, originally set for May 21, has been rescheduled for no earlier than May 25 at 3:09 p.m. Eastern to address the issue.

The helium leak was discovered in a thruster in the spacecraft’s service module, causing the previous delay from May 17. Boeing has been working to pinpoint the source of the leak and develop a flight plan that could potentially allow the system to be used without replacing the affected component.

Recent pressure testing on May 15 revealed that the leak in the flange is stable and should not pose a significant risk during the flight. Boeing is currently focused on creating operational procedures to ensure the system maintains performance capability and necessary redundancy throughout the mission.

Both NASA’s commercial crew and International Space Station programs are taking the next few days to review data and procedures before moving forward with the flight countdown. The prolonged delays in the CST-100 Starliner’s launch have been attributed to various technical issues, including problems with valves and parachutes.

The spacecraft experienced a setback on May 6 when a countdown was halted due to an unrelated valve problem with the Atlas 5 Centaur upper stage. Despite the challenges, Boeing remains committed to resolving any issues to ensure a successful mission.

Mark Nappi, the vice president overseeing Boeing’s Starliner program, expressed confidence in the team’s ability to address challenges and prepare for a flawless launch. He emphasized the importance of meticulous planning and execution to ensure all systems are functioning correctly before liftoff.

As NASA and Boeing work tirelessly to address the helium leak and ensure the spacecraft’s readiness for the upcoming mission, stakeholders are closely monitoring the situation to ensure the safety and success of the crewed flight.