The 5th helium leak detected in Starliner, the limit that NASA set so that the ship would not have problems

After several delays and last-minute cancellations, the spacecraft CST-100 Starliner took off successfully on June 5 heading to the International Space Station, ISS for its acronym in English. It did so after being detected in the previous days a helium leak on a rubber stamp from the spaceship, something that POT He considered that it would not pose a risk to the mission. Steve Stichmanager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, then assured that 'If we get something wrong, we could manage up to four more leaks'. This week, NASA confirmed the existence of the fifth helium leak in the space module, the limit that the space agency had set.

Starliner is a reusable spacecraft developed by Boeing in collaboration with the NASA Commercial Crew Program and Bigelow Aerospace. His first manned mission, the one he is carrying out and will end with his return on the 18th, should serve to obtain space agency certification. It is designed to transport up to 7 astronauts to and from the International Space Station and other destinations in low Earth orbit. For example, future private space stations like the Commercial Space Station proposed by Bigelow Aerospace. On this occasion, the crew members are NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams.

NASA detected two more leaks in the helium manifolds of the propulsion system during the journey to the ISS. 'Two of the affected helium valves have been closed and the spacecraft remains stable,' NASA said in an official statement. Helium plays a vital role in pressurizing the Starliner's propellant fuel lines, essential for maneuvering the spacecraft.

When Starliner began the docking maneuver to the ISS, Five of the ship's 28 thrusters failed.. The crew was able to restart 4 of them, but failed to do so with the fifth. This setback caused Starliner to miss its initial docking window and circle Earth for another hour before successfully docking with the ISS.

Already with the astronauts on the ISS, the space agency has detected two more new leakswhich has placed Starliner at the leak limit that NASA assured it could handle without problems.

The space agency, however, downplays the situation. In a release has explained that 'teams are evaluating what impacts, if any, five small leaks in the service module's helium manifolds would have on the remainder of the mission.' NASA engineers have determined that at current leak rates, 'Starliner has plenty of headroom to support the return trip from the station'.

According to their calculations, the Boeing space module still has in its warehouses enough helium to fly for 70 hours, needing only 7 to complete the flight back to Earth. The tanks remain closed, stopping leaks, while the ship remains docked at the International Space Station.

Boeing's Starliner program has faced numerous delays and setbacks over the years. Started in 2010the first manned flight was to have taken place in 2017, but it has been postponed for different reasons. Helium leaks and thruster malfunctions may raise questions about their reliability, but NASA maintains that these problems will not require another test flight before certifying the spacecraft for regular use..