Boeing’s first astronaut launch to the space station further delayed

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. (Image credit: NASA/Boeing)

Boeing’s first astronaut launch to the International Space Station has been further delayed, and currently the liftoff is scheduled for 12:25 p.m. EDT on Saturday, June 1, 2024.

Two astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, will spend about a week at the International Space Station before the crew capsule makes a parachute-assisted landing in the southwestern United States.

Once the crewed test flight is complete, NASA will certify Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station regularly.

Boeing aims to be the second private US company, after Elon Musk’s SpaceX, to conduct human spaceflight to and from the International Space Station.

However, Boeing’s first crewed test flight to the International Space Station had been delayed due to a safety issue.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft was supposed to launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Monday, May 6, 2024, at 10:34 p.m. EDT (02:34 UTC on May 7) from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Prior to launch on May 6, the crewed test flight was postponed due to a faulty oxygen relief valve observation on the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket’s Centaur second stage.

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) team had decided to replace a pressure regulation valve on the liquid oxygen tank on the Atlas V rocket’s Centaur upper stage after a thorough data analysis on May 7, 2024. 

The ULA team had successfully replaced the pressure regulation valve on the liquid oxygen tank on the Atlas V rocket’s Centaur upper stage on May 11, 2024.

Later, the team found a small helium leak in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft’s service module, which was sealed on May 15, 2024.

Currently, NASA, Boeing, and ULA (United Launch Alliance) are assessing Starliner performance because safety is the first priority.

NASA awarded several US private companies to carry safe, reliable, and cost-effective human transportation to and from the International Space Station through its Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

Till now, NASA has only certified SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to conduct human spaceflight to and from the International Space Station.

Please remember that in 2014, NASA awarded contracts to both SpaceX and Boeing to develop their individual astronaut transportation systems to the space station. SpaceX started its service in 2020, but Boeing has yet to do that.

Through this Commercial Crew Program (CCP), NASA does not want to depend on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for the transportation of astronauts. Once Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft begins its crew rotational service, NASA will not have to purchase additional seats on the Soyuz spacecraft for astronauts.

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Ashim

Ashim Chandra Sarkar founded Space & Telescope in 2022. He holds a M.Sc. in physics and has five years of research experience in optical astronomy. His passion for astronomy inspired him to open this website. He is responsible for the editorial vision of spaceandtelescope.com.

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