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Boeing Starliner Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

ByHuey Yee Ong

May 7, 2024
Boeing Starliner Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

Boeing Starliner Launch Delayed Due to Technical Issue

Boeing’s first crewed mission using the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, scheduled to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), was postponed just hours before the planned launch. Citing concerns with an oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket’s upper stage, the decision was made out of caution.

The Atlas V rocket, a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin under the United Launch Alliance (ULA), was set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, at 10:34 PM local time. This mission, marking the first crewed use of ULA’s Atlas V, follows years of development challenges and significant financial overruns, with Boeing accruing over $1 billion in excess costs.

Atlas V Rocket Launch Details

Scheduled astronauts for the flight, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, were expected to dock at the ISS by Thursday and remain in space for at least eight days, returning to Earth no earlier than May 16. This mission is crucial for Boeing as it aims to certify the Starliner for regular astronaut transport under a $4.2 billion contract with NASA, part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program initiated in 2014.

Despite setbacks, including a failed uncrewed mission to the ISS in 2019 and subsequent delays leading to a successful uncrewed mission in 2022, Boeing remains committed to advancing its space transportation capabilities.

How Does Boeing Stack Up Against SpaceX?

In contrast, SpaceX, which also received funding under NASA’s program but at a lower total of $2.6 billion, has successfully completed several crewed missions to the ISS since 2020. This includes missions with Axiom Space and private flights with individuals like billionaire Jared Isaacman, highlighting a significant advancement over Boeing in terms of operational achievements and market penetration.

The postponement also reflects a broader industry focus on safety and reliability, particularly when human lives are involved. NASA’s associate administrator Jim Free emphasized the agency’s priority on crew safety, noting the critical nature of these missions not only for the astronauts involved but also for NASA’s goal of having multiple reliable crew transport providers.

The delayed Starliner mission not only affects Boeing’s timeline in fulfilling its contractual obligations but also affects NASA’s operational redundancy in its Commercial Crew program.

Next Steps for Boeing’s Starliner

Boeing and NASA have expressed continued commitment to overcoming these challenges, with alternative launch dates set for May 7, 10, and 11, should conditions allow for a safe attempt. Meanwhile, Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, commented on the financial and temporal discrepancies between the two companies’ capsule development.

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Featured Image courtesy of Anadolu via Getty Images

Huey Yee Ong

Hello, from one tech geek to another. Not your beloved TechCrunch writer, but a writer with an avid interest in the fast-paced tech scenes and all the latest tech mojo. I bring with me a unique take towards tech with a honed applied psychology perspective to make tech news digestible. In other words, I deliver tech news that is easy to read.

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