NASA safety panel skeptical of Starliner readiness for crewed flight | Space


WASHINGTON — The chair of a NASA safety panel urged the agency not to rush into a crewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner vehicle, calling for an independent “deep look” at technical issues with the spacecraft.

Speaking at a May 25 public meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, Patricia Sanders, chair of the committee, expressed skepticism that NASA and Boeing will be able to close known issues with Starliner in time for a launch currently scheduled for as soon as July 21.

“There remains a long line of NASA processes still ahead to determine launch readiness” for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, the first crewed flight of the spacecraft with two NASA astronauts on board. “That should not be flown until safety risks can either be mitigated or accepted, eyes wide open, with an appropriately compelling technical rationale.”

She noted the projected launch date, but added it was simply an “opportunity in the launch schedule” and manifest of planned missions to the station. The current launch date for CFT would fit between a cargo Dragon mission, slated to depart the ISS in early July, and the Crew-7 Crew Dragon mission planned for launch in mid-August. That date, she said, is “not necessarily an acknowledgment of readiness to conduct that flight test.”

When NASA and Boeing announced March 29 the July launch date for CFT, a three-month slip, officials said it would give them more time to complete certification of the spacecraft, notably its parachutes. The delay would also allow them to check avionics systems in the spacecraft after finding a logic error in one unit.

Parachute certification remains a “pacing item” for the launch, Sanders said, but also brought up several other issues, some of which she said were only recently revealed through analysis of data products as part of the certification process. She mentioned specific open risks of ongoing integrated software testing as well as battery… read more

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