Boeing postpones Starliner space capsule test

Space Science

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, on Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ready for the second un-piloted test flight to the International Space Station, Thursday, July 29, 2021, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. The launch is scheduled for Friday afternoon. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

MYSTERY WIRE — Boeing has postponed its Starliner test flight this week, no date is yet set to try again.

NASA and Boeing were targeting a Tuesday, August 3, launch, but it was scrubbed due to “unexpected valve position indications in the Starliner propulsion system”.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard is illuminated on the launch pad ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 mission, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, at Cape Canaveral, Fla. Starliner, without a crew, is expected dock with the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.(Joel Kowski/NASA via AP)

U.S. aerospace giant Boeing has postponed the redo a vital unmanned test flight of its reusable Starliner crew capsule, 19 months after a failed mission to the International Space Station.

As its space shuttle program was winding down, NASA looked to private companies to take over cargo and crew deliveries to the space station.

SpaceX kicked off supply runs in 2012. Two years later, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to the orbiting lab.

SpaceX got $2.6 billion under NASA’s commercial crew program, while Boeing received more than $4 billion. The initial goal was to launch NASA astronauts by 2017.

Unlike Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Boeing’s human spaceflight ties run deep. As a result of company acquisitions, Boeing has partnered with NASA on every domestic astronaut program dating back to Project Mercury in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

White with black and blue trim, Boeing’s Starliner capsule is 16.5 feet (5 meters) tall with its attached service module – the height of a giraffe – and 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter.

It can fit up to seven people, though crews typically will number four. Boeing eventually wants to sell empty seats to private researchers or even tourists.

During its space debut in December 2019 with no one on board, the Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and could not reach the International Space Station.

Ground controllers has just enough time to solve another software problem that could have destroyed the capsule at flight’s end.

Closing out their seven-month investigation in July 2020, NASA officials said they had identified 80 corrective actions, mostly involving software and testing, that must be done before the Starliner capsule launches again.

SpaceX, meanwhile, successfully launched two NASA astronauts to the ISS in May 2020 and has since sent two operational crews to the orbiting lab, a third is planned for October this year.

Boeing have not set a date for a new attempt of the unmanned test flight of its reusable Starliner crew capsule after this week’s planned launch was scrapped due to “unexpected valve position indications in the Starliner propulsion system”.

Boeing had been shooting for its first astronaut launch in the first half of 2020.

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