Boeing Starliner 1st crew launch postponed to May 25

Watch the livestream of the 1st crewed launch of Boeing Starliner in the player above. The new launch date is no earlier than May 10.

First crewed Boeing Starliner postponed

A rocket issue caused the scrub of the first crewed Boeing Starliner launch to the International Space Station on May 6, 2024. The new launch date is no earlier than Saturday (May 25, 2024). A valve that regulates pressure on the upper stage of the rocket was buzzing, which led to the scrub two hours before launch. In a press conference on Monday night, ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno said:

Had it been a satellite, we would have simply cycled, finished the count and launched. That’s not what we planned for a crew mission. And so, we stayed with the rules and procedures and scrubbed.

When the launch gets the green light, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will ride a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. You’ll be able to watch the livestream in the player above.

The two astronauts will spend about a week at the International Space Station before making their return journey on Starliner. Starliner will land in the American West with the aid of parachutes and airbags. This is the third test for Starliner. The most recent test was in 2022, when Starliner visited the space station without humans on board.

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A man and a woman, in flight suits.
Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams in T-38 preflight activities at Ellington Field in Houston on August 16, 2022. Image via Robert Markowitz/ NASA.

Progress and goals

The goal of Starliner is to have a reusable crew capsule that can be flown for up to 10 missions. After NASA retired the space shuttle program in 2011, it has relied on others to get astronauts into space. Some astronauts have hitched a ride on Russian rockets. Then in 2020, SpaceX’s Dragon began transporting astronauts to the space station. Boeing’s Starliner would be an important backup to these space efforts.

But it’s been a long road to Boeing’s first crewed launch day. As Wendy Whitman Cobb of Air University wrote for The Conversation:

Starliner’s development has come with setbacks. Though Boeing received $4.2 billion from NASA, compared with $2.6 billion for SpaceX, Boeing spent more than $1.5 billion extra in developing the spacecraft.

On Starliner’s first uncrewed test flight in 2019, a series of software and hardware failures prevented it from getting to its planned orbit as well as docking with the International Space Station. After testing out some of its systems, it landed successfully at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

In 2022, after identifying and making more than 80 fixes, Starliner conducted a second uncrewed test flight. This time, the vehicle did successfully dock with the International Space Station and landed six days later in New Mexico.

And one day, as space tourism increases, Starliner may even play a role in taking you, or someone you know, into space.

Starliner: A space capsule with the top "lid" open as it floats above Earth toward the space station.
An uncrewed Starliner as it headed toward docking with the International Space Station in 2022. Image via NASA.

Bottom line: The 1st crewed Boeing Starliner launch to the International Space Station was postponed on Monday due to a rocket issue. The new launch date is no earlier than May 25. Watch a launch livestream here!

May 21, 2024

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Kelly Kizer Whitt

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