Boeing’s Starliner launch called off at last minute in latest delay of astronaut flight

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Boeing faced another setback on Saturday with the launch of its Starliner spacecraft, marking the latest in a series of delays for its astronaut flight program. A computer system aborted the countdown just minutes before liftoff, leaving the cause of the problem unclear.

Launch halted at last minute
NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were already strapped into the Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station when the countdown was halted at three minutes and 50 seconds. The computer system responsible for the final minutes before launch triggered the abort, preventing the team from addressing the issue in time. Technicians quickly moved to assist the astronauts out of the capsule, and within an hour, the hatch was reopened.

Second launch attempt delayed
This was the second launch attempt for the mission. The initial attempt on May 6 was delayed due to leak checks and rocket repairs. The next potential launch window is Wednesday, June 5, with another opportunity on Thursday, June 6. However, NASA has not yet confirmed a new date for the mission.

Ongoing challenges for Boeing
Boeing’s journey to launch its first crewed Starliner mission has been fraught with challenges. In 2019, a test flight without astronauts onboard suffered severe software issues, preventing it from reaching the International Space Station. A follow-up test in 2022 encountered parachute problems and flammable tape, further delaying progress. Last month, a small leak in the capsule’s propulsion system and a recurring rocket valve issue added to the complications.

Despite the setbacks, NASA remains committed to having a backup to SpaceX for astronaut flights. Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, expressed optimism despite the delay, stating, “We got really close today. This is kind of the way spaceflight is.”

NASA still optimistic
NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, the backup pilot, acknowledged the disappointment but emphasized that delays are an inherent part of space exploration. “We’re going to have a great launch in our future,” he said, echoing the determination to see the Starliner successfully reach its destination.

 

 

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