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Boeing Starliner Launch Delay: Valve Issue Grounds Crew, Postpones Historic Mission

Boeing Starliner Launch Delay

Boeing’s first manned spacecraft launch canceled due to rocket valve problem

Boeing’s first crewed launch of its Starliner spacecraft was canceled due to a valve issue on the Atlas rocket, delaying the mission to the International Space Station. The valve exceeded its life cycle, requiring potential replacement and pushing the launch to next week.

This setback adds to the project’s history of challenges, including previous test flight issues with parachutes and flammable tapes. Despite the delay, NASA’s commercial crew program manager emphasized the importance of following safety protocols and procedures. SpaceX, the other company contracted by NASA for crewed missions, has been successfully conducting space missions since 2020.

Key Concepts

  • Boeing canceled the first crewed launch of its Starliner spacecraft due to a valve problem on the rocket.
  • The valve on the Atlas rocket exceeded its life cycle, necessitating a delay in the mission to the International Space Station.
  • Similar valve issues have been seen in previous satellite launches, but stricter rules for crewed flights prevented a restart with astronauts on board.
  • This delay adds to the project’s history of setbacks and challenges.
  • NASA’s commercial crew program manager acknowledged the difficult decision to cancel the launch.
  • Boeing has faced challenges with previous test flights, including issues with parachutes and flammable tapes.
  • SpaceX has been successfully conducting space missions since 2020.
  • NASA contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to the International Space Station after the termination of the space shuttle program.

Boeing canceled the first crewed launch of its Starliner spacecraft on Monday night (May 6) due to a problem with a valve on the rocket.

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Two test pilots of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) fastened their seat belts and sat in the cabin of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft, preparing to fly to the International Space Station (ISS), but the countdown was terminated two hours before the planned liftoff.

Tory Bruno, chief executive of United Launch Alliance, said an oxygen pressure-reducing valve on the top of the company’s Atlas rocket began shuddering open and shut, making a loud noise.

Bruno said the valve may have exceeded its 200,000 life cycle, meaning the valve would have to be replaced, delaying the launch until next week. But if engineers determine that the valve is still within its useful life, the launch team could try again as early as Friday.

It’s the latest delay to Boeing’s crewed space flight. The project was delayed for years due to problems with the spacecraft.

Bruno said similar valve problems have occurred during several satellite launches using Atlas rockets over the past few years. But the problem was quickly solved by opening and closing the valve in question. However, the company has stricter rules for flights with astronauts on board, prohibiting the valve from being restarted while there are people on board.

“So we followed the rules and procedures and therefore canceled the launch,” Bruno told a news conference.

Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, admitted it was a difficult decision.

Stitch told reporters: “We are taking it step by step at the moment. We will launch when we are ready, and we will fly when it is safe.”

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At the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, minutes after the countdown stopped, Boeing’s new astronaut vehicle returned to the launch pad to pick up astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams in the spacecraft.

Interstellar’s first unmanned test flight in 2019 failed to reach the International Space Station, forcing Boeing to test it again. The company then encountered problems with weak parachutes and flammable tapes.

Ten years ago, after NASA terminated the space shuttle project, it contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to pay billions of dollars to private companies to transport astronauts from the International Space Station. SpaceX has been engaged in space orbit pickup and delivery missions since 2020.

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