Boeing again delays launch of its Starliner “space taxi” with two astronauts on board

Will Starliner ever leave the launch pad? Aerospace company Boeing has abandoned an attempt to take off its “space taxi” this Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, with two astronauts on board after a failed attempt on Saturday. Launch, The launch of the first manned spacecraft was automatically aborted by the Ground Launch Computer (GLS) after just three minutes and 50 seconds for reasons that are not yet clear. The ship will depart no earlier than June 5th. Starliner is a fundamental challenge for the aerospace giant as it will allow it to compete with SpaceX, which is four years ahead of it in ferrying astronauts to an orbital platform.

Starliner has previously flown two uncrewed flights – one in 2019 and another in 2022 – but several technical problems delayed the first test flight with astronauts. The first attempt occurred on May 6, but had to be aborted due to a faulty valve in the rocket, which had to be replaced. In addition, technicians discovered a helium leak in one of the engines. Ultimately, NASA decided that the leak was not a problem and set a new launch date for Saturday, June 1, but it did not happen.

In this case, the problem arose less than four minutes after takeoff when one of the computers stopped the countdown. The two astronauts on board, Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams, eventually left the capsule. “It’s disappointing,” NASA Commercial Crew Program Director Steve Stich said after the failed launch attempt. “Everyone is a little disappointed, but you roll up your sleeves and get back to work,” he added.

Tory Bruno, executive director of ULA, noted that the launch appears to have been stopped due to a faulty computer card. The map resides in one of the computers that forms the ground-based launch sequence control system, which controls the final phase of the rocket’s countdown. The problem could be solved by replacing the card with a different one, which could not be done until the rocket ran out of fuel and technicians could safely approach it.

This Sunday, Starliner had a new opportunity, but in the end NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA), the builder of the Atlas V rocket that would propel Starliner, abandoned the new attempt in time to try to understand the cause of the automatic abort. as NASA wrote on its website. Under current circumstances, Starliner will not have a new launch window until June 5 at 16:52 Spanish Peninsula time.

The goal of this first crewed test flight is to carry two passengers to the ISS and return safely. Wilmore and Williams have already visited the orbital station twice. The spacecraft will dock at the station’s forward module port at Harmony at approximately 7:50 p.m. Monday, and astronauts will stay on the ISS for about a week before returning to Earth aboard a reusable capsule that will land using parachutes. and airbags in the southwestern United States.

During the mission, astronauts and ground crews will test Starliner’s hardware and software to ensure it is safe for future missions. The capsule, which can be used ten times, will carry four astronauts or a combination of crew and cargo for NASA missions in low Earth orbit.

After NASA’s shuttles ceased use, American astronauts had to resort to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to travel to the ISS. To end this dependency, NASA awarded two contracts in 2014 to Boeing and SpaceX to develop new crewed spacecraft, worth two billion dollars. SpaceX knew how to take advantage of the opportunity and in 2020 carried out the first manned flight of its Dragon capsule. Now, if Boeing can solve its problems, the game could be more evenly spread.

NASA hopes to alternate flights between SpaceX and Boeing to transport its astronauts to the ISS. Starting in 2030, when NASA vacates the station, the two craft could be used to travel to future private space stations.

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