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For over a century now, Boeing has been in the business of designing commercial aircrafts and helping people travel the world. At present, though, the company is focused on an entirely new challenge: space. Boeing’s new focus in the 21st century is designing spacecrafts that NASA astronauts can use to visit the International Space Station in a cost-effective manner.
According to The Washington Post, this effort has made a lot of progress. However, June brought a significant setback, as one spacecraft they were testing had a propellant leak during a test of its emergency abort system. The leak, which was found during a trial exercise at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, is expected to delay the scheduled launch of Boeing’s latest spacecraft.
“The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration,” the company said in a statement. “During engine shutdown, an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak.”
Boeing added that it has “been conducting a thorough investigation with assistance from our NASA and industry partners. We are confident we found the cause and are moving forward with corrective action.”
Boeing is under contract to engineer space station flights along with SpaceX, Elon Musk’s company. Boeing’s deal is worth around $4.2 billion, while SpaceX’s is closer to the neighborhood of $2.6 billion. The hope is that the two companies will restore NASA’s capability to send humans into space; at the moment, the U.S. is reliant on Russia to coordinate those flights at a cost of over $80 million per seat. Boeing is hoping to run test launches of their new rockets with crews on board by the end of this year.
At NASA, though, there is cause for concern about astronaut safety. That remains the top priority, regardless of the financial pressures involved.
“Flying safely has always taken precedence over schedule,” NASA said in a statement. “As our partners are finalizing their systems, we’re assessing remaining technical details and schedules for flight tests with and without crew.”