Spacecraft Crisis: New Helium Leaks Threaten Boeing’s Starliner Mission to ISS

Cape Canaveral, Florida – After a decade in the making, Boeing’s Starliner capsule embarked on a highly anticipated mission to the International Space Station. However, the journey faced unexpected challenges as NASA reported the detection of two additional helium leaks on the spacecraft. While one leak had been identified prior to launch and deemed acceptable, the discovery of two new leaks posed new hurdles for the mission.

NASA revealed in a post on X that the spacecraft had three helium leaks, with two valves affected. Astronauts Butch Willmore and Suni Williams were instructed by mission control to shut down two valves to address the new leaks just before they were set to sleep. Despite the setbacks, NASA and Boeing assured the crew’s safety and allowed them to rest while troubleshooting efforts continued.

Boeing aerospace engineer Brandon Burroughs, speaking on the NASA broadcast, emphasized that the spacecraft remained safe to fly despite the ongoing helium leaks. The plan remained for Starliner to dock at the International Space Station as scheduled, indicating that the mission was still on track despite the challenges faced during the journey.

The highly anticipated voyage of Starliner, marking its first crewed journey to space, launched successfully from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The Crew Flight Test mission aimed to rival SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule and expand options for ferrying astronauts to the space station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson highlighted the significance of the Starliner mission, underscoring the monumental moment in NASA’s history. With the first woman, Suni Williams, onboard such a mission, history was made yet again as Starliner prepared to spend days at the orbiting laboratory alongside the astronauts already on board.

Despite previous setbacks that resulted in scrubbed launch attempts, NASA and Boeing persevered to ensure the success of the mission. Through meticulous troubleshooting efforts and repairs, the teams were able to address issues with the spacecraft and rocket, demonstrating a commitment to safety and success in space exploration.