Boeing postpones its Starliner mission after detecting a technical issue

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A Valve problem on Starliner gets in the way of its orbital do-over mission

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Boeing has postponed the test launch of its uncrewed Starliner astronaut capsule. The delay was due to a technical problem that came after a lightning storm on Monday. Mission teams were figuring out whether the issues could be resolved in time for Starliner’s next launch opportunity around noon on Wednesday, but Boeing ruled that out as of Tuesday night.

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“We’ll let the data lead our work,” says Boeing’s Starliner manager John Vollmer. Statement. “Our team has worked diligently to ensure the safety and success of this mission, and we will not launch until our vehicle is performing nominally and our teams are confident it will be ready to fly.” ready for.”

Boeing said that during routine engineering checks the day before the Starliner’s planned launch, engineers noticed that some valves within the Starliner’s propulsion system had malfunctioned, adding that the issue had been detected “at Kennedy Space Center”. in the area after yesterday’s lightning storm.” The Starliner was to be launched Tuesday at 1:20 p.m. ET atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. But now, after engineers spent much of Tuesday investigating the issue, Boeing says the next step will involve returning Starliner’s rocket to its integration tower for further inspection.

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While ruling out a software glitch as the culprit for the Starliner’s valve malfunction, Boeing has indicated that the mystery lies somewhere in the spacecraft’s hardware. According to the company, engineers have “ruled out a number of possible causes”, including software. “Additional time is needed to complete the evaluation and as a result, NASA and Boeing are not proceeding with Wednesday’s backup launch opportunity”.

The Starliner launch is a test mission without humans. It is set to remain docked for about ten days before flying to the International Space Station, performing a clean docking procedure, and returning to Earth. The mission comes more than a year and a half after Boeing’s first orbital Starliner failed to reach the test station and returned home earlier than planned in 2019.

Tuesday’s launch “scrubs” — industry jargon for delayed launch — marks Starliner’s second so far. The spacecraft was initially scheduled to fly to space on Friday, July 30, but an accident involving Russia’s new science module aboard the ISS forced Boeing to postpone the launch until Tuesday as NASA Ensured that the space station was secure and ready for the arrival of a new spacecraft. . It is unclear when Boeing and NASA will be ready to launch the Starliner again.

Update, 9:25PM ET: Added detail from Boeing’s statement.

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