The continued troubles of Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test keep coming as the company has confirmed it will replace the service module on the OFT-2 Starliner, also stating the next available launch window is in May.
Boeing stated it would need to replace the service module after the scrubbed launch attempt earlier this year in an updated blog post. While tests are still ongoing for what caused the valve issue, teams have added preventative remedies to the new services modules.
The Starliner spacecraft for OFT-2 will now use the service module meant for Boeing’s Crewed Flight Test, and that spacecraft will use the service module for the first operational Starliner flight. This shift will take time to complete, but not as long as rebuilding a brand new service module.
In planning for the upcoming second launch attempt of OFT-2, Boeing will find a launch window with ULA. A window is available in May if the launch schedule holds. However, SpaceX’s CRS-25 is currently scheduled for May, so Boeing will need to work around that mission.
Back story on Boeing’s starliner woes
This issue stems from the valve issue seen during OFT-2’s launch attempt earlier this year. The oxidizer for the service module’s thrusters leaked past a valve designed to hold it back until needed. Boeing hasn’t given a known cause, but teams seem to continue to make progress getting Starliner back to work.
Starliner is one of two options NASA funded back in 2014 to replace NASA’s reliance on Russian Soyuz launches for crew access to the International Space Station. While SpaceX and Boeing have both experienced delays, SpaceX has begun launching operational missions, launching its third this fall. Boeing launched the first Orbital Flight Test mission in 2019, but it concluded early due to multiple problems.
Since then, Boeing has been attempting to refly the OFT tests but has continued to run into issues internal and external.