December 5, 2023

NASA, Boeing Prepare To Replace Starliner Service Modules Ahead of Mission to Space Station

Boeing Starliner. Credit: Boeing
NASA and Boeing continue making progress toward the companys upcoming Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) objective to the International Space Station as part of NASAs Commercial Crew Program.
Groups just recently finished offloading fuel from the OFT-2 spacecraft inside Starliners production factory at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida in preparation for separating and replacing the current service module (SM2) from the crew module.
” The Starliner team and effective completion of the spacecrafts advancement stage are vital to sustaining International Space Station operations through 2030,” said Steve Stich, supervisor, NASA Commercial Crew Program. “The groups commitment to establishing reliable treatments and corrective action after our very first OFT-2 launch attempt demonstrates their continued commitment to securely flying NASA crews for several years to come.”

Development likewise continues with production of the new service module (SM4) that will go onto the OFT-2 crew module. That service module was just recently moved from the low bay production area to the factorys hazardous processing area for high pressure leak screening. Remaining jobs before mating this service module with the OFT-2 crew module consist of approval screening, last wire harness breeding, installation of solar selection panels, and last closeouts.
NASA and Boeing continue to work towards an opening in United Launch Alliances launch window accessibility in May for OFT-2.

Starliner professionals work on the Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft in the high bay of Boeings Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASAs Kennedy Space Center in Florida on January 13, 2022. Credit: NASA
In December, Boeing chose to move up service modules currently in production for its upcoming uncrewed and crewed flight tests. The service module originally prepared for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) is now being utilized for OFT-2, and the service module initially prepared for Starliners first post-certification objective, Starliner-1, now will be utilized for CFT.
With fuel unloaded complete, the spacecraft was vacated the dangerous processing area and into the production factory high bay.
” Because this is not an operation that we generally perform, our group put in the time to completely collaborate and evaluate the proper spacecraft and ground support equipment setups, and after that carry out to plan to ensure the safety of our group,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeings Commercial Crew Program.
Once separated in the coming weeks from the OFT-2 team module, SM2 will be sent out to NASAs White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico for additional screening associated with the problem impacting the spacecrafts oxidizer isolation valves.
This artists principle reveals Boeings CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, docking to the International Space Station. Credit: NASA
The examination into the valve problem continues to validate that the most possible cause is interaction of moisture with nitrogen tetroxide that permeates through the Teflon seal in the valve, leading to deterioration. Evaluating continues to completely understand how this incident impacts the valves in various environments.
Tests include environmental seal evaluation and exposing valves, in a regulated setting, to conditions and temperatures similar to those the spacecraft experienced prior to the planned launch of OFT-2. The results of these tests will help in the ongoing advancement of removal efforts to avoid comparable issues on future service modules.
For instance, the group designed a purging system that will be integrated into the spacecraft to secure the valves from prospective direct exposure to moisture at the factory, launch complex, and launch pad.
Progress likewise continues with production of the brand-new service module (SM4) that will go onto the OFT-2 team module. That service module was recently moved from the low bay production area to the factorys dangerous processing location for high pressure leakage testing. Staying tasks prior to mating this service module with the OFT-2 crew module consist of approval screening, final wire harness breeding, setup of solar selection panels, and final closeouts.
NASA and Boeing continue to pursue an opening in United Launch Alliances launch window accessibility in May for OFT-2. An actual launch date will be figured out closer to spacecraft readiness, and with consideration of Eastern Range and International Space Station availability. Possible launch windows for CFT are under review and will be identified after a successful and safe OFT-2.