Boeing scrubs Starliner launch indefinitely

Boeing scrubs Starliner launch indefinitely
Starliner on the launch pad
Starliner on the launch pad
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Starliner on the launch pad
Starliner on the launch pad

Boeing's ill-fated Starliner spacecraft has suffered another major setback as NASA announced today that its first crewed launch has been postponed indefinitely. This comes after four launch dates were scrubbed in less than three weeks due to technical issues.

With all of Boeing's current troubles, today's announcement is hard to spin as anything other than bad news. Certainly, it's a major embarrassment.

Starliner began life as part of NASA's commercial space program aimed at replacing the Russian Soyuz spacecraft with ones built and operated by US private companies to ferry cargo and crew to and from the International Space Station.

As is the usual American practice, the idea was to not only achieve a particular mission objective, but to spark whole new industries by having two or more companies competing with one another. In this case, it was Boeing and SpaceX, with Boeing being seen as the unbeatable 800-pound gorilla in the room.

That was back in 2010. Fourteen years later, while SpaceX has made multiple trips to the ISS, Starliner has seen cost overruns, delays, a raft of technical issues, and an unfortunate debut uncrewed flight that saw the craft placed in the wrong orbit due to software problems caused by a poor engineering strategy that kept design teams isolated from one another.

On May 6, 2024, all that was supposed to change as NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita Williams sat aboard Starliner atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. With only a few hours to go, the launch was aborted due to a problem with an oxygen valve in the Centaur upper stage.

While the malfunction was not with the Starliner, it was still a public relations setback for Boeing because the company owns 50% of ULA. The launch was pushed back to May 17, which was also scrubbed because of a leaking helium valve in Starliner's Service Module. The next date, May 21 was put back to May 25 as engineers continued to assess the situation and weigh up whether to fly with the leaky valve or remove the capsule from the rocket for repairs.

On May 21, NASA released an official statement, saying, "The team has been in meetings for two consecutive days, assessing flight rationale, system performance, and redundancy. There is still forward work in these areas, and the next possible launch opportunity is still being discussed. NASA will share more details once we have a clearer path forward."

Now the space agency has delayed the launch indefinitely while the problems are sorted out and the next possible launch date determined.

When that will be is anybody's guess.

Source: NASA

Lordy - And *how* much has this thing cost?! And when SpaceX have had a perfectly satisfactory system in place and operating all along? I appreciate the US had had to rely on Russia since the Shuttle program ended and I can understand the desire for a alternative/competitor to SpaceX but why not just support SpaceX for now and worry about a competitor to ease monopoly concerns if it ever becomes necessary (by which time India or Japan may have a practical space launch program available? The cost savings would have been in he billons!
@martinwinlow The answer is, ‘Because it’s Boeing’, whose claws are deeply embedded into Congress.
Did you know that in the recently passed FAA funding bill, there was a ‘five year special exemption’ granted to guess which company, allowing them to continue producing 767 freighters even though their engines no longer meet current emissions requirements.
Oh just take it behind the Vehicle Assembally Building and shoot it already.