Boeing Swaps Out Starliner Service Module, Test Flight Target Is May


Boeing has given up trying to fix the faulty fuel oxidizer valves that scrubbed its second attempt to send an uncrewed Starliner capsule to the International Space Station last July. The do-over test flight, made necessary by the failure of the first attempt to reach the correct orbit, was canceled about five hours before launch when 13 of 24 of the flight critical valves in the service module wouldn’t open and close properly. Boeing has now replaced the original service module with the one intended for the first crewed flight and has applied unspecified “preventative remediation efforts” measures to the valves to avoid a repeat of the issue. Boeing now hopes to try the uncrewed flight in May.

Earlier this year, NASA and Boeing announced the famous Florida summer humidity reacted with the volatile chemicals that pass through the valves and corroded them, causing the failures. It would appear the original service module will never leave the earth and will be used instead for studying the corrosion issue and testing fixes. “Ongoing investigation efforts continue to validate the most probable cause to be related to oxidizer and moisture interactions,” a joint NASA/Boeing news release said. “NASA and Boeing will continue the analysis and testing of the initial service module on which the issue was identified.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. Various rocket launch companies have been successfully using hydrazine and dinitrogen tetroxide on their space vehicles since the 1960s, but Boeing seems to think that Florida humidity is a new phenomena? Wow… If I were an astronaut scheduled to fly on this contraption in the future, I think I would find a different line of work!

  2. Boeing has once again been upstaged by relative newcomers to the aerospace industry.

    I have often wondered where those Boeing employees involved in the 737 debacle found employment.

    It appears we’ve found the answer!

    • Even worse it’s probably a whole different set of management people trained in the GE profit-at-any-cost method of doing business that was brought in from the Macdonell Douglass merger.

  3. leave it to a “Government” agency to believe Boeing can do something without trying to cut corners….
    This is obviously just another example.

  4. Boeing Manager: “We are confident humidity will be a non-factor for the Starliner vehicle, even if we use cheapsh!t materials for our valves.”

    Mother Nature: “Hold my raingauge…”

  5. I bet those valves look nice and shiny on the computer simulation.
    Probably end up being the most expensive playground equipment ever…