Despite billions of dollars invested in the space industry, even giant corporations encounter issues with their product. The solution? Thorough testing at every stage of the process, particularly when changing a component.
2021 has not been a lucky year for Boeing: although the company worked for 18 months to make this year’s launch a success, the Starliner spacecraft failed to take off in August due to technical issues. Valves in the capsule’s service model remained shut, preventing the launch of the spacecraft.
The capsule has since been removed from the rocket and returned to the factory. This fiasco is all the more embarrassing since NASA awarded Boeing a $4,2 billion contract to develop the component.
Engineers have been since trying to find out why the valves in the service module would not open. Was it the humid Florida air that mixed water with the oxidizer? Even two months after the failed attempt, the company is still unsure. The service module might need to be replaced, a move that would necessitate profound changes to the spacecraft.
This was Boeing’s second unsuccessful attempt to get Starliner into space. In December 2019, they encountered communications issues as the capsule’s software thought they were 11 hours later in the mission. Now, the company has yet to schedule another attempt.
At a meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel on Thursday, the question arose: what changes should be made to hardware inspection, testing, vehicle processing, and checkout to reduce this type of risk in the future?
But not all companies were as unlucky as Boeing. SpaceX, another company involved in NASA’s commercial crew program, has completed its third human spaceflight since last year, with the fourth scheduled for next month.
Last week, Elon Musk's company launched Inspiration4, the first all-civilian spacecraft, carrying a four-person crew who spent three days in space. Remarkably, that flight was not part of the commercial crew program and did not involve NASA personnel.
In conclusion, even giant corporations face unexpected issues that might have been solved during the testing period. Replacing parts is a loss of money, time, and reputation. How to avoid similar failures? Test, test, and test!
LabShare’s platform helps you access thousands of accredited labs around the world for your specific requirements. In addition, LabShare will open up to space testing methods over the next five years. But regardless of the industry, testing is essential at every stage of development.