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First crewed launch for Boeing's Starliner space capsule is scrubbed after an issue with its booster rocket

The scrub delays for at least a short while longer what would have been a milestone for the company's new shuttle system. A time and date for a next attempt was not immediately made public.
Boeing Astronaut Launch
Posted at 6:46 PM, May 06, 2024

Boeing scrubbed the launch of the first crewed flight of its Starliner capsule on Monday, delaying for at least a short while longer what would have been a milestone for the company's new shuttle system.

United Launch Alliance Launch Director Tom Heter III made the decision to hold the launch after engineering teams said the Atlas V rocket carrying the capsule was not in condition to proceed with launch on Monday night.

A time and date for a next attempt was not immediately made public.

Two NASA pilots, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, were set to fly the first mission of the Starliner. Both are retired Navy captains with piloting experience who have spent time aboard the International Space Station. When Starliner launches, they will test the capsule's systems and then rendezvous with the ISS for a weeklong stay.

The capsule was scheduled to ride aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, which was set to see its own share of history: The launch was set to be the first crew to be boosted by an Atlas rocket since NASA's Mercury program ended in 1963, and the 100th launch for the Atlas V system in its lifetime.

Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket is rolled out to the launch pad.

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If successful, Boeing would join SpaceX as the second American company to provide crew shuttle services to orbit for NASA.

NASA awarded the ultimate crew contracts to Boeing and SpaceX in 2014. But Boeing's Starliner program had already dealt with delays, setbacks and troubled testing, most recently encountering software issues that delayed an uncrewed test flight to the space station and underperforming parachutes that weren't safe enough to deploy with a crew aboard.

Like SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, Starliner is meant to be reused for future launches. On its return to Earth, instead of splashing down into the ocean like Dragon, Starliner carries airbags to cushion its landing on solid ground.

The capsule has room to expand its mission on future launches. It has room to carry as many as seven crew.

In addition to the scrapped launch, Boeing has six more launches for NASA planned, extending through 2030.