Boeing’s crew halts launch of Starliner space capsule again: NPR

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled onto the launch pad Thursday with Boeing’s Starliner space shuttle ahead of a flight test by NASA’s Boeing crew.

NASA/Getty Images


Hide title

Change the title

NASA/Getty Images

The scheduled launch of Boeing’s Starliner space capsule was scrubbed on Saturday, minutes before its scheduled liftoff time.

With 3:50 left in the countdown, Rocket’s computer initiated a seizure. The spacecraft has to launch at a precise moment to capture the station, which means the mission has to wait at least one more day before launch.

NASA said Scrub Teams worked on understanding the cause because “the computer ground output sequencer was not loaded into the correct operational configuration after continuing the terminal count.”

The space capsule was planned to carry two NASA astronauts from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on a 25-hour flight to the International Space Station. A commercially built capsule carrying humans is a planned mission.

NASA has not yet announced whether the launch will take place on Sunday.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams planned to take the Starliner on its first flight, putting the vehicle through its paces ahead of operational missions for NASA. After the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA partnered with two commercial companies — Boeing and SpaceX — to transport and send astronauts to the space station.

Saturday’s scrub comes a month after Starliner was originally scheduled to dock with the station, and the launch pad was already years behind schedule.

Earlier, in a twist familiar to many air travelers on Earth, NASA announced that astronauts’ luggage would be left behind. Lost luggage is not Boeing’s fault. The space station’s urine recycling system broke earlier this week and NASA had to make room to send in a new pump.

“We ended up hauling two crew suitcases with clothes in them,” Dana Weigel, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, said during a press conference Friday.

Weigel said the space station has spare clothes and hygiene items that the crew can use during their stay.

Here’s what else to know about the now scrubbed release.

This was to be the Starliner’s first manned flight

In 2014, NASA presented the award to Boeing A $4.2 billion contract to build the Starliner to carry astronauts on routine missions to the International Space Station.

The Starliner project fell far behind schedule and over budget. Boeing estimates that the program has cost the company A loss of over $1 billion.

At the same time NASA awarded Boeing a contract, paying SpaceX $2.6 billion to build its Dragon capsule. The spacecraft had its crewed test flight in 2020 and now continues to ferry astronauts to the station.

Starliner is beset by technical problems

Saturday’s scrub was not the first delay for the Starliner program.

Starliner failed to reach the ISS during its maiden voyage in 2019. The reason was a misaligned internal clock that caused the computer to fire the capsule’s engines too quickly. The spacecraft managed to reach the ISS during its second test mission in 2022, despite some thrusters failing to work as planned.

Boeing delayed the Starliner’s first crewed flight last year after company officials realized the adhesive tape used on hundreds of yards of wiring was flammable.

Starliner’s launch attempt on May 6 was aborted after a valve jammed in the launch rocket. That valve was replaced, but engineers discovered a small helium leak in the Starliner’s thrusters.

The leak could be due to a faulty seal, although engineers aren’t entirely sure. However, after weeks of detailed analysis, they said the Starliner could fly safely even with a leak.

The future of the Starliner

If Starliner is eventually able to successfully launch, it will pave the way for more Starliner flights, giving NASA two independent private shuttles capable of carrying astronauts to the space station.

In their mission, Wilmore and Williams planned to test the Starliner’s vital systems, including life support and communications, while connecting to the space station. Although the spacecraft can essentially fly autonomously, the two must test the vehicle’s manual controls as they approach the orbiting outpost.

June 10 WILCOX, Ariz. — The crew had planned to spend about a week on the station with a planned landing under a canopy of parachutes on June 10, ending a 10-day mission. Teams at NASA and Boeing must comb through data from this flight before certifying the vehicle for operational missions. NASA hopes to split space flights between Boeing and SpaceX, with missions to the ISS occurring every six months.

NPR’s Joe Hernandez contributed to this report.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *