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Leaks were discovered in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft on its way to the space station

Leaks were discovered in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft on its way to the space station

Two new helium leaks, in addition to a previously known leak, were discovered during flight aboard Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, which carries two NASA astronauts and is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Thursday.

NASA said overnight from Wednesday to Thursday that the spacecraft “remains stable.”

Jim May, a Boeing official, said: “At this time, these leaks do not pose a risk to the safety of the crew and ship, or to the mission.”

In total, Starliner now has three helium leaks.

One of them was identified before the takeoff of this years-awaited mission, which took place on Wednesday from Florida.

It was decided not to repair this first leak of helium found on one of the ship's engines, because after analysis, NASA described it as “small” and considered it did not represent a danger.

Helium is not a flammable gas, but it is used in a ship's propulsion system.

The other two leaks are “new since the spacecraft entered orbit,” NASA said on the X website. She added: “Two of the damaged helium valves were closed.”

NASA clarified Thursday morning that mission officials have met and given the green light for the spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS), which is still scheduled to take place at 12:15 p.m.

The US space agency added, “They have checked the condition of the vehicle and continue to monitor” the flow of leaks.

A press conference is also scheduled after the ship docks with the International Space Station.

Boeing must prove during this test flight that the Starliner is safe to begin regular operations. The empty spaceship has already reached the International Space Station once in 2022, but this is the first time it has carried astronauts.

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Butch Wilmore, 61, and Sonny Williams, 58, have both gone to the International Space Station twice in the past and have been training for several years for this mission.

A few hours after liftoff, they temporarily manually piloted the spacecraft to test its proper performance.

“The accuracy is really unbelievable,” Butch Wilmore said in a recording relayed by Boeing before the two additional leaks were announced. “Even more so than in the simulator.”

He added: “The first six hours were absolutely amazing and exceeded our expectations.” “It's just an amazing ship.”

The Starliner development program has been marred by multiple disappointments that have led to years of delays.

Thus, Boeing beat out SpaceX, which has already been transporting astronauts to the International Space Station since 2020.

But NASA wants to have a second means of transportation so it can better deal with potential problems in one of the capsules or an emergency.