Boeing and NASA Delay Crewed Starliner Launch Indefinitely

Why Trust Techopedia
Key Takeaways

  • Boeing and NASA have indefinitely postponed the first crewed Starliner launch.
  • There have been multiple delays tied to the capsule and rocket.
  • The test flight is necessary before ISS missions can begin.

The first crewed Boeing Starliner launch has been postponed for an indefinite period, according to a NASA statement.

NASA didn’t provide an exact reason for the delay, but said there was work needed on “flight rationale, system performance, and redundancy.” There will be more details about a Starliner launch once there’s a “clearer path forward,” the agency said.

The spacecraft was supposed to fly aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) rocket on May 25th. There have been multiple delays in the past few weeks.

Boeing and NASA had finally set a May 6th Starliner launch date, but the flight was scrubbed two hours before liftoff when ULA found a problem with an oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket. A helium leak active at the time prompted the Starliner team to push the launch back to May 21st, and again to May 25th.

The Starliner program as a whole is years behind schedule. The first crewed spaceflight was originally slated for 2017, and a successful uncrewed mission didn’t take place until 2022. The initial unoccupied flight in 2019 went awry when a mission clock error prevented the capsule from docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

Much depends on this human flight. The safety of astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams is critical. Boeing needs a successful launch before Starliner can be put into service and compete with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. NASA, meanwhile, has already had to give SpaceX more crewed flights to make sure the U.S. has uninterrupted trips to the ISS. More delays would further complicate its plans.

For Boeing, the ultimate aim is to have a major stake in the privatization of space alongside relative newcomers like SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. That could keep the firm relevant even if its mainstay aircraft business runs into serious trouble.