NASA, Boeing delay Starliner astronaut landing again, to study helium leaks and thruster issues

Sep 8, 2023
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Those things are heavily automated and Crew Dragon can be configured for up to 7 so adding two more seats to the cargo of the next launch is easy.
Send Starliner down empty to see how it behaves and bring the two astronauts down on the Dragon up there.
Too many things are popping up; Boeing is done for. Admit it and move on to Sierra Nevada.
 
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The real reason for the delays is NASA and Boeing are likely having problems convincing the astronauts to get back into this POS for the risky ride home.
They're no dummies. Test dummies.
NASA and Boeing knew about a leak and they launched anyway.
It wasn't considered serious.
Starliner has sprung 4 more leaks, so far, the thrusters are unreliable and there is an O2 valve issue.
“We thought we had fixed that problem,” Stich said, adding, “I think we’re missing something fundamental that’s going on inside the thruster.”
That statement must make the astronauts feel all warm and fuzzy.
NASA knew about O ring partial burn throughs before the shuttle Challenger disaster.
It wasn't considered serious.
And they launched anyway.
NASA also know about foam falling off and hitting the wing before the Columbia disaster.
It wasn't considered serious.
And they launched anyway.
Both NASA and Boeing have demonstrated safety is not the top priority.
No wonder the original commander bailed on Starliner after training for years.
Bailed for "personal reasons" like he preferred not to take the risk.
 
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The real reason for the delays is NASA and Boeing are having problems convincing the astronauts to get back into this POS for the risky ride home.
I don't think you should post an absolute statement like that unless you have direct information that it is true. Posting even reasonable speculation as fact is not proper.

I do agree that it appears that NASA is not publicly admitting to a level of concern that seems more appropriate than their public statements indicate.

And, as I posted here in other threads, I think they have reached the point where they should decide to bring Starliner back autonomously, and bring the astronauts back on a Dragon capsule sent up for that purpose.

But, that would cost them the "crew certification" that both NASA and Boeing are trying to achieve for Starliner, even if they don't really believe that the capsule is safe enough for crew without further diagnosis and fixes.

But, I think that is appropriate, at this point in the development process, Starliner just does not seem to be in condition to warrant crew certification, as indicated by the problems already demonstrated in the first part of this flight.

I hope that both NASA and Boeing are seriously considering how badly a fatality or even an obvious near miss would damage their reputations and possibly even threaten their future existence. This could be NASA's "third strike" on making fatally bad calls in crewed space flights.
 
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I do agree that it appears that NASA is not publicly admitting to a level of concern that seems more appropriate than their public statements indicate.

Those things are heavily automated and Crew Dragon can be configured for up to 7 so adding two more seats to the cargo of the next launch is easy.
Send Starliner down empty to see how it behaves and bring the two astronauts down on the Dragon up there.
Too many things are popping up; Boeing is done for. Admit it and move on to Sierra Nevada.
A further point to consider, CBS just reported that all the problems are all in the service module so while the capsule itself might be safe to land, the thruster issues in the service module might not send it on the proper reentry.

That is seriously concerning: minor changes in the reentry path would be deadly.

I'm not sure protecting Boeing's reputation is worth the risk given that alternatives are available. The capsule is supposed to be refurbishable but the service module is expendable which might explain the lower quality (cheaper?) workmanship.
 
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I don't think you should post an absolute statement like that unless you have direct information that it is true. Posting even reasonable speculation as fact is not proper.

I do agree that it appears that NASA is not publicly admitting to a level of concern that seems more appropriate than their public statements indicate.

And, as I posted here in other threads, I think they have reached the point where they should decide to bring Starliner back autonomously, and bring the astronauts back on a Dragon capsule sent up for that purpose.

But, that would cost them the "crew certification" that both NASA and Boeing are trying to achieve for Starliner, even if they don't really believe that the capsule is safe enough for crew without further diagnosis and fixes.

But, I think that is appropriate, at this point in the development process, Starliner just does not seem to be in condition to warrant crew certification, as indicated by the problems already demonstrated in the first part of this flight.

I hope that both NASA and Boeing are seriously considering how badly a fatality or even an obvious near miss would damage their reputations and possibly even threaten their future existence. This could be NASA's "third strike" on making fatally bad calls in crewed space flights.
Fully agree. It is better to bring the Starliner back empty than to put the 2 astronauts in it and have a deadly accident.

I still remember Challenger blowing up on my television screen in 1986. It is better for Boeing and NASA to lose certification than to lose 2 astronauts.
 
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Fully agree. It is better to bring the Starliner back empty than to put the 2 astronauts in it and have a deadly accident.

I still remember Challenger blowing up on my television screen in 1986. It is better for Boeing and NASA to lose certification than to lose 2 astronauts.
Absolutely.
Both the Challenger and Columbia disaster were due to poltical considerations overriding the technical concerns. Challenger because Reagan was griping about delays and he wanted the teacher astronaut PR photoshoot before the mid-terms and Columbia because they switched the known good insulation that didn't fall off for the "eco-friendly" foam that did to give Gore eco-warrior brownie points. As early as '97 they had engineering reports that the new foam peeled off and impacted the heat shield tiles. And having ignored that, they didn't dare go back to the better insulation without admitting submitting to the political pressure.

And right now they face a similar problem: Boeing is in deep doo-doo for bad quality control and shoddy (cheap, likely China sourced) components in their supply chain. If NASA does the safest thing and gives up on Starliner, Boeing stock will tumble even more and heads will roll, taking along a horde of friends of the party. Nelson can't allow that, being a party apparatchik himself.

We may yet lose two more astronauts because of political pandering.
 
"Challenger because Reagan was griping about delays and he wanted the teacher astronaut PR photoshoot before the mid-terms " - fj.torres

There were many reasons to want to fly on that Tuesday. The flight was long delayed and up against scheduling considerations, they wanted a mention in the State of the Union address, they wanted a Friday telecast to students, they wanted to assure the CIA they could launch on a two week schedule.
The Rogers report concluded that the decision makers did not have the information they needed about the o-rings to cancel the flight.
 
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"Challenger because Reagan was griping about delays and he wanted the teacher astronaut PR photoshoot before the mid-terms " - fj.torres

There were many reasons to want to fly on that Tuesday. The flight was long delayed and up against scheduling considerations, they wanted a mention in the State of the Union address, they wanted a Friday telecast to students, they wanted to assure the CIA they could launch on a two week schedule.
The Rogers report concluded that the decision makers did not have the information they needed about the o-rings to cancel the flight.
The temperature alone was excuse to cancel.
They never before launched in that chill.
 
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You know, I'd feel a whole lot more sympathy for Boeing if we, the taxpayers, had not paid nearly twice as much for the Starliner as for the Dragon, and then waited nearly seven years longer than was expected, and can't even expect one clean launch at this late date.

There is no reason to risk the astronaut's lives for what is a small upside P.R. return trip to Earth. Contrast that to something else going wrong on the way home and these astronauts perish. There will be knives out for Boeing and the NASA admin types that made the poor choice to send them home on that helium-leaking, valve-sticking jalopy when there is a perfectly functional Dragon parked in the next bay over, on the ISS.

Between hidden crap software that caused two 737 crashes, the blown out 737 window, the better part of a decade's delay on Starliner, only to discover flammable tape on the wiring and parachute shredding, bad valves, etc. etc., it really might well be time to thank Boeing for their accountant-approved, Wall-Street-grade spacecraft.

NASA: Staunch the bleeding. Replace Starliner.

Now if only there were an alternative waiting in the wings... oh wait! There's Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser.

Is it not ironic that at the time the contract was awarded, it was considered a bold and risky move to select SpaceX for building the Dragon capsule. And yet today, for far less money, they have successfully launched Dragon so many more times.

I'd be perfectly happy with cancelling the Starliner and not spend another cent on it. Instead call up Sierra Nevada and see how long and for how much it would take to get the Dream Chaser ready for confirmation testing and a launch on a Falcon 9 and/or ULA rockets.

If NASA wants a Plan B, it's time to thank Boeing for their best effort, but kick them to the curb and bring in Sierra Nevada.
 
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If the reason for persisting in having a manned return is to achieve certification of the vehicle, given the vehicle's manifold problems, and to eschew returning the crew on another vehicle, which appears at this point to be by far the safest route given both the problems with the thrusters and the management decision to move forward with a known bad thruster, then it's a false certification. It would as much be based in luck as in technical capability.

Any thinking person who is aware that absolute thruster integrity will be mandatory for a safe return, yet knowing that the thrusters have spontaneously failed multiple times on this flight, who agrees - without being bound and gagged - to take that ill-fated capsule back should realize that certification would be shallow indeed if successful, and a catastrophe if not, at the possible loss of their life, and resulting in a black eye from which Boeing's space program might never recover.

Far better it would be to return the capsule unmanned, work out the problems that caused the failures, return the crew on a known good vehicle, and try again once the lessons have been learned. That is particularly a best course if the capsule fails on re-entry, but at least it won't kill anyone, and it would be a plus for Boeing. Boeing has been so plagued with quality control flaws recently that it is not unreasonable to strongly suspect sabotage - which needs to be definitively ruled out.
 
NASA never acknowledged but on the night of Columbia disaster I wrote 5 options one of which is repeated above by gsteele531 and others above. They accepted 3 for the remaining flights of Shuttle for nearly a decade after the loss and then prematurely retired the shuttle. Shuttle would have lasted in parallel to depending on Russian launches alone!

Main problem is not following open info protocols like apollo which had reliability measured by "fail-Fail-Failsafe" as mentioned in other posts by me relating to Primary, secondary and tertiary backup systems.

Situation is not that dismal.
They are testing only the Service Module if I have read it right, for future ascent missions as that is where the thrusters have problems surfacing.
Helium leak might also be on Command Module if so then it is serious and they should come back on alternate safer spacecraft.

If testing Service Module, on orbit is better if away from ISS or safe near ISS.

Ravi
(Dr. Ravi Sharma, Ph.D. USA)
NASA Apollo Achievement Award
ISRO Distinguished Service Awards
Former MTS NASA HQ MSEB Apollo
Former Scientific Secretary ISRO HQ
Ontolog Board of Trustees
Particle and Space Physics
Senior Enterprise Architect
SAE Fuel Cell Tech Committee voting member for 20 years.
http://www.linkedin.com/in/drravisharma
 
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Absolutely.
Both the Challenger and Columbia disaster were due to poltical considerations overriding the technical concerns. Challenger because Reagan was griping about delays and he wanted the teacher astronaut PR photoshoot before the mid-terms and Columbia because they switched the known good insulation that didn't fall off for the "eco-friendly" foam that did to give Gore eco-warrior brownie points. As early as '97 they had engineering reports that the new foam peeled off and impacted the heat shield tiles. And having ignored that, they didn't dare go back to the better insulation without admitting submitting to the political pressure.

And right now they face a similar problem: Boeing is in deep doo-doo for bad quality control and shoddy (cheap, likely China sourced) components in their supply chain. If NASA does the safest thing and gives up on Starliner, Boeing stock will tumble even more and heads will roll, taking along a horde of friends of the party. Nelson can't allow that, being a party apparatchik himself.

We may yet lose two more astronauts because of political pandering.
I really hope you are wrong with that last line!

I do remember the political posturings that led to the loss of the 2 orbiters. 14 lives in all due to politics. All the warning signs were there before the launch of the Starliner but NASA deemed the risks acceptable - until they launched. Let us see what happens here.
 

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