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Boeing’s Starliner has 5 ‘small’ helium leaks

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is experiencing five “minor” helium leaks as its first astronaut-crewed flight test continues, the aerospace company and NASA said in an update Monday.

Although a major milestone was reached when Starliner successfully docked and delivered two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on June 6, the leaks mark the latest of several hurdles faced during this mission, including previous helium leaks and a with the bow thruster.

Helium, according to Boeing, is used to pressurize the maneuvering engines of the spacecraft’s response control system (RCS), allowing them to fire.

MORE: NASA sets new launch date for Boeing Starliner’s first astronaut flight after delays

The leaks are similar to those discovered during the May 25 Starliner launch attempt. That launch was scrapped after a small helium leak was discovered in the service module, which contains support systems and instruments for operating the spacecraft.

While it is unclear how much helium is leaking, Boeing said engineers have evaluated the helium supply and leakage rates and concluded that Starliner has enough helium for its return mission.

PHOTO: Boeing Starliner spacecraft prepares to dock with the International Space Station for the first time on June 6, 2024.  (NASA via AP)PHOTO: Boeing Starliner spacecraft prepares to dock with the International Space Station for the first time on June 6, 2024.  (NASA via AP)

PHOTO: Boeing Starliner spacecraft prepares to dock with the International Space Station for the first time on June 6, 2024. (NASA via AP)

The astronauts only need seven hours of “free flight time” to perform the end-of-mission maneuvers and Starliner currently has enough helium for 70 hours of free flight time, Boeing said.

“While Starliner is docked, all manifolds are closed during normal mission operations, preventing helium loss from the tanks,” the aerospace company’s update said.

Engineers are also investigating a valve that is not properly closed on the RCS. According to the update, all other valves were operating normally during a check on Sunday.

Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams continue to test Starliner as part of the data collection needed for possible NASA certification to send regular crewed missions to the ISS. NASA has primarily used SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft to transport crew and cargo to the ISS.

Tests include ensuring the spacecraft can restart when placed in minimum power mode during missions aboard the ISS, as well as ensuring Starliner can support a crew with its own air, evaluating onboard seats and recharging the batteries. service module, Boeing said.

MORE: NASA’s Voyager 1 returns readable data to Earth for the first time in five months

Wilmore and Williams were scheduled to return to Earth on Friday, June 14. However, the mission has been extended until June 18, depending on weather and Starliner readiness.

“The @NASA and @BoeingSpace teams have set a return date of no earlier than Tuesday, June 18 for the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test,” ISS officials wrote in a post on social platform orbit will allow the crew to perform a spacewalk on Thursday, June 13, while engineers complete the checkouts of the #Starliner systems.

The spacewalk will be performed by two different astronauts, but the extra days on board will also allow preparations for future spacewalks, NASA said Monday.

As Starliner’s launch and docking with the ISS have been completed, the final phase of the current mission will consist of undocking Starliner from the ISS and then adjusting its orbit to move away from the space station before relaunching enters Earth’s atmosphere and lands in the southwestern US.

ABC News’ Gina Sunseri contributed to this report.

Boeing’s Starliner has 5 ‘minor’ helium leaks as astronauts’ ISS mission extends: NASA originally appeared on

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