NASA, Boeing discover new leaks, failing thrusters on Starliner during ISS docking

NASA and Boeing found new problems on Starliner during docking at the International Space Station. 

After a successful liftoff on Wednesday morning at 10:52 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, engineers found more leaks. 

Failing thrusters also complicated the flight test. 

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are safe at the space station right now, but docking came with unexpected challenges.

They lifted off on Wednesday with one softball-size leak we knew about, but when they reached orbit, two more popped up. 

"Unfortunately, a couple more have occurred once they reached orbit," said Don Platt who runs the spaceport education center at Florida Tech.

The spacecraft is losing helium which is affecting the thrusters. The spacecraft is stable, but before docking and during a thruster test in orbit on Thursday, five thrusters failed.

"This comes after some troubleshooting of some reaction control system thrusters, those are also known as RCS thrusters on the service module portion of the Starliner spacecraft," said a commentator on NASA’s live feed during the docking. 

FOX 35’s Esther Bower asked Platt if the thrusters failing relates to the helium leaks. 

"Yes, because without the ability to force the propellant into the thruster, it won’t operate," said Platt. 

He compares this issue to car problems here on earth.

"If you use gasoline, and you have an electric pump that pumps the gas into the engine," the space expert added. 

Without helium, the thrusters can’t get power. NASA and Boeing investigated the data while the capsule waited about 200 meters, or four Olympic size swimming pools, away from the ISS.

"They will definitely make sure failure is not an option," said Platt. 

Boeing was able to recover four of the thrusters that failed orginally. The astronauts kept their cool in orbit and didn’t seem phased at all by new issues.

Butch Wilmore was happy to be back in space, saying it was "nice to be attached to the big city in the sky."

While docking was delayed by about an hour, the astronauts still made it safe. Starliner connected to the space station at 1:34 p.m. ET. 

Platt says they’re navigating these issues successfully during the test flight because the teams on earth and in space are prepared for whatever else could go wrong.

"They’ve had even more challenging situations in training," said Platt. "I’m sure and have been able to figure out solutions and to get through it."

This mission is supposed to be a week long to test Starliner while attached to the ISS, but Boeing needs to run more tests to figure how much helium they’re losing now that there are more leaks than they knew about. 

There is a press conference with officials set for 5 p.m. ET. on Thursday. FOX 35 will update this story as more information is released.