Boeing’s Spacecraft Has a Toxic Fuel Leak. Will It Delay The Missions to the ISS?

Boeing and SpaceX are competing in creating a spacecraft that can send astronauts to the orbital lab in 2019. But the leak of toxic chemicals could make Boeing delay its next tests and probably the mission towards the ISS.

In June, while testing the rocket engines on their spacecraft, engineers discovered that there was a fuel leak, which can react violently when it is exposed to some catalysts. The engineers use hydrazine as fuel so that the engine can be compact, but hydrazine is volatile and very toxic to humans. And a leak on a spacecraft that is supposed to carry humans to the orbit is not something we want!

According to the statements from Boeing, the leak can be fixed without the need of redesigning the whole spacecraft.

The Pad Abort Test

The company is creating a capsule called CST-100 Starliner that will be on top of the Atlas V rocket booster. It is designed to detach from the rocket booster in case there is an emergency so that the passengers can escape. A Boeing spokesperson stated before the event of the fuel leak that the company is “currently evaluating possible dates for the Pad Abort Test.” With the leak appearing shortly after the statement, we can only presume that these possible dates will be delayed.

NASA officials are already aware that neither Boeing nor SpaceX will be able to be on schedule for flying astronauts to the ISS next year. NASA has paid both companies more than $6.5 billion to create a reliable, but also a low-cost spacecraft for manned transportation to the orbital lab.

But until Boeing or SpaceX get chosen to deliver astronauts to the ISS, they must do flight tests with no crew by the end of the year – and with no other delays. This August NASA will announce which astronauts will get a ride to the ISS on the new spacecraft.