Boeing's Starliner Crew Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

Boeing’s Starliner Crew Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

Boeing’s much-anticipated Starliner spacecraft launch, scheduled for Monday evening, has been postponed due to a technical issue with the oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket’s upper stage. The decision to scrub the launch was made less than two hours before the planned liftoff time of 10:34 PM EDT from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Boeing’s Starliner Crew Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

This crewed mission, carrying astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunny Williams, was poised to be a significant milestone for Boeing’s Starliner program. After years of delays and cost overruns exceeding $1 billion, it would have marked the first time the company transported astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) under its $4.2 billion contract with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA and Boeing have emphasized their commitment to crew safety, with NASA’s associate administrator Jim Free stating, “The lives of our crew members, Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, are at stake. We don’t take that lightly at all.”

 

Starliner

 

While the launch has been scrubbed for now, backup opportunities are available on May 7, 10, and 11. If the issue is resolved, the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket, which boasts a 100% success rate across 99 missions, will carry the Starliner capsule to orbit. The astronauts would then dock with the ISS as early as Thursday and remain there for at least eight days before returning to Earth no earlier than May 16.

A successful mission would allow Boeing to finally certify the Starliner for human transportation and begin fulfilling its contract obligations. In contrast, SpaceX, which received a $2.6 billion contract under the same program, has been transporting astronauts to and from the ISS since 2020 and has conducted over a dozen crewed missions.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s CEO, commented on the situation, noting the disparity in funding and the delays faced by Boeing’s program. However, both NASA and Boeing remain committed to the mission’s success, emphasizing the importance of redundancy in the Commercial Crew program.