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Helium leaks and engine failures: the big drama of the Starliner docking at the space station

As the Starliner began its approach to the space station, five engines of the reaction control system failed during the flight. The mission teams performed a series of warm-up tests that restarted four of the engines while the crew manually navigated the spacecraft at the 200-meter hold point

Boeing Starliner approaches the International Space Station. Photo: NASA TV
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams aboard, approaches the International Space Station for an autonomous docking while 257 miles above the South Pacific Ocean. Credit: NASA TV

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams aboard the Starliner spacecraft successfully docked at the International Space Station after overcoming challenges such as helium leaks and engine failures. The flight involved manual flight and strategic management of the spacecraft's systems to ensure a successful docking.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sonny Williams, aboard Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS) at 12:34 PM EST. The Starliner's door opening began at about 3:20 p.m., and the two entered the ISS at 3:45 p.m. The Starliner launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 10:52 a.m. June 5 from Space Launch Complex-41 at the Cape Canaveral Launch Center in Florida.

During the flight, Wilmore Williams successfully manually piloted the Starliner and completed their sleep period. Before the crew went to sleep, the mission teams detected three helium leaks in the spacecraft. One of them was discussed in advance before the flight along with a management plan, and the other two occurred when the spacecraft reached orbit. To monitor and manage these leaks, the three helium tubes were closed in flight during the crew's sleep period and reopened before the approach and docking procedures. After docking, all of the Starliner's helium tubes were shut down according to normal plans.

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft approaches the space station during the company's unmanned orbital test flight on May 20, 2022. Credit: NASA
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft approaches the space station during the company's unmanned orbital test flight on May 20, 2022. Credit: NASA

As the Starliner began its approach to the space station, five engines of the reaction control system failed during the flight. Mission crews performed a series of warm-up tests that restarted four of the engines while the crew manually navigated the spacecraft at the 200-meter hold point. After reselection of four of the engines, the Starliner achieved the required error tolerance to approach the space station for docking. At the 10-meter hold point, the mission team completed system readiness assessments and proceeded to dock.

The seven members of the Expedition 71 crew pose together with the two test flight crew members for a team photo at the space station. Front from left, Sonny Williams, Oleg Kononenko, and Butch Wilmore. Second row from left, Alexander Grabenkin, Tracy S. Dyson, and Mike Barratt. In the last row, Nikolai Chub, Janet Epps, and Matthew Dominick. Credit: NASA TV
The seven members of the Expedition 71 crew pose together with the two test flight crew members for a team photo at the space station. Front from left, Sonny Williams, Oleg Kononenko, and Butch Wilmore. Second row from left, Alexander Grabenkin, Tracy S. Dyson, and Mike Barratt. In the last row, Nikolai Chub, Janet Epps, and Matthew Dominick. Credit: NASA TV

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  1. A company until when they will work on you. There is no space station. Only those who do not understand technology can believe that a station is the size of a football field with a team of 6 people maintaining hundreds of koshers living between 200 degrees and minus 200 degrees for over 10 years ascending descending sleeping breathing when the speed of a spaceship is 30000 thousand km m per hour with a capsule that is launched to an altitude of 200 km and has to climb another 250 km. How do you do that when in space you cannot speed up or slow down and certainly not connect to the station. It's like sending a needle 2 km high at a speed of 100 km and sending a sewing thread that will fit exactly in the groove of the needle. Does that make sense to you? The station is on the ground and all the footage is on the ground

  2. A company until when they will work on you. There is no space station. Only those who do not understand technology can believe that a station is the size of a football field with a team of 6 people maintaining hundreds of koshers living between 200 degrees and minus 200 degrees for over 10 years ascending descending sleeping breathing when the speed of a spaceship is 30000 thousand km m per hour with a capsule that is launched to an altitude of 200 km and has to climb another 250 km. How do you do that when in space you cannot speed up or slow down and certainly not connect to the station. It's like sending a needle 2 km high at a speed of 100 km and sending a sewing thread that will fit exactly in the groove of the needle. Does that make sense to you? The station is on the ground and all the footage is on the ground

  3. The articles are interesting but there is a feeling of forced content enrichment of ai engines.

  4. It's beyond embarrassing.

    Now, on the assumption that this spacecraft will also succeed in returning the crew members safely, it is to be expected that NASA and Boeing will announce the success of the mission and the program, shove all the planning documents into the spacecraft, put it in a remote corner in some god-force hangar where leftovers from the Gemini program are stored, And they will have an amnesia about the whole thing.

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