Boeing's Starliner Faces Helium Leak Ahead of ISS Docking: Report

Zinger Key Points
  • Helium leaks found in Starliner's propulsion system.

Boeing Co’s BA new Starliner capsule, carrying its inaugural two-member NASA crew, is detecting a helium leak as it approached the International Space Station (ISS).

What Happened: Helium leaks on the CST-100 Starliner render some of the craft’s 28 thrusters unusable.

NASA and Boeing are reporting that the astronauts — Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams — remain safe, and the spacecraft has backup thrusters to manage the situation.

NASA mission managers gave Boeing the green light to proceed with the docking while monitoring the situation.

The Starliner is scheduled to dock autonomously at the ISS around 12:15 p.m. ET (1615 GMT), according to Reuters.

Once securely docked with the ISS, Wilmore and Williams will conduct standard procedures such as checking for airlock leaks and pressurizing the passage between the capsule and the ISS.

Also Read: New Boeing CEO Must Learn From Crisis: IATA Head

Why It Matters: The helium leaks detected on the propulsion system posed a challenge. The Starliner uses helium to pressurize the propellant for its thrusters.

Specific details about the location of the downed thrusters and the helium leak rate were not disclosed.

The CST-100 launched from Florida on Wednesday for a long-delayed test flight to prove the spacecraft’s flightworthiness in one-day journey to the ISS.

The mission is also meant to bolster Boeing’s competition with Elon Musk’s SpaceX,

The Starliner launch on Wednesday, atop an Atlas V rocket provided by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA), followed years of technical issues and delays.

For example, previous launch attempts were scrubbed due to last-minute issues including a helium leak. Boeing built Starliner under a $4.2 billion contract with NASA to compete with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, aiming to provide NASA with an alternative vehicle for sending astronauts to the ISS from U.S. soil.

What’s Next: The astronauts will be welcomed by seven residents on the ISS: four U.S. astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts.

Wilmore and Williams are scheduled to stay aboard the ISS for about eight days before departing on a return flight.

The return journey will involve a fiery re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, culminating in a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the U.S. Desert Southwest, marking a first for a crewed NASA mission.

Price Action: BA shares are trading lower by 0.45% at $189.00 in premarket at the last check Thursday.

Disclaimer: This content was partially produced with the help of AI tools and was reviewed and published by Benzinga editors.

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