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Boeing's first astronaut flight halted at the last minute

The launch was previously delayed for leak checks and rocket repairs. The next available opportunities to attempt a launch are on June 5 and June 6, NASA said.
Boeing Astronaut Launch June 1
Posted at 9:47 AM, Jun 01, 2024

A last-minute problem nixed Saturday's launch attempt for Boeing's first astronaut flight, the latest in a string of delays over the years.

NASA released a statement saying the agency and its partners would also forego a Crew Flight Test launch attempt on Sunday, June 2 "to give the team additional time to assess a ground support equipment issue at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida."

Two NASA astronauts were strapped in the company's Starliner capsule when the countdown was halted at 3 minutes and 50 seconds by the computer system that controls the final minutes before liftoff.

Just moments before take off, there was no time to work through the latest issues, so the mission was suspended. NASA said it was due to an "observation of a ground launch sequencer," and said, "The system was unsuccessful in verifying the sequencer’s necessary redundancy."

Launch controllers were evaluating the data, according to United Launch Alliance's Dillon Rice.

Technicians raced to the pad to help astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams out of the capsule atop the fully fueled Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Within an hour of the launch abort, the hatch was reopened. The attempt was an effort to send the astronauts to the International Space Station.

It was the second launch attempt. The first try on May 6 was delayed for leak checks and rocket repairs.

NASA said United Launch Alliance would assess the situation overnight and provide an update on June 2 on "next steps for the flight."

The next available opportunities to attempt a launch are on June 5 and June 6, NASA said.

Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket

Space

Boeing's Starliner is delayed, again

Douglas Jones
6:58 PM, May 22, 2024

NASA wants a backup to SpaceX, which has been flying astronauts since 2020.

Boeing should have launched its first crew around the same time as SpaceX, but its first test flight with no one on board in 2019 was plagued by severe software issues and never made it to the space station.

A redo in 2022 fared better, but parachute problems and flammability later caused more delays. A small helium leak in the capsule's propulsion system last month came on top of a rocket valve issue.

More valve trouble cropped up two hours before Saturday's planned liftoff, but the team used a backup circuit to get the ground-equipment valves working to top off the fuel for the rocket's upper stage. Launch controllers were relieved to keep pushing ahead, but the computer system known as the ground launch sequencer ended the effort.

"Of course, this is emotionally disappointing," NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, the backup pilot, said from neighboring Kennedy Space Center.

He said delays are part of spaceflight. "We're going to have a great launch in our future."