<p>Joe Raedle/Getty Images</p>

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Starliner launch: Boeing and Nasa cancel key flight to space to test crew capsule

Andrew Griffin
Tuesday 03 August 2021 16:11
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Boeing has postponed a key test flight for its Starliner spacecraft.

The capsule – which is intended one day to carry astronauts around space, but would have been sent without people to the International Space Station during the launch – was scheduled to take off on Tuesday.

Instead, the launch was scrubbed hours before it was due to take place. Boeing did not immediately explain the problem.

It later said that the launch was postponed after “Boeing engineers monitoring the health and status of the vehicle detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system”. The problems had been found during a check after electrical storms near the launchpad on Monday, Boeing said.

Tory Bruno, the chief executive of the United Launch Alliance that built the rocket to carry the Starliner to space, said that the team would try again on Wednesday.

“We’re disappointed with today’s outcome and the need to reschedule our Starliner launch,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program.

“Human spaceflight is a complex, precise and unforgiving endeavor, and Boeing and NASA teams will take the time they need to ensure the safety and integrity of the spacecraft and the achievement of our mission objectives.”

The mission was seen as a shot at redemption for the capsule, which conducted its first orbital test more than a year and a half ago, and notably failed to reach the floating lab after a run of software problems. It was just the latest in a series of troubles for the craft.

More recently, the test was scheduled to be conducted last week but was delayed after an “emergency” on the space station.

In a tweet, Boeing confirmed that it had scrubbed the test and said that it would give more details soon.

The mission had been scheduled to launch on Tuesday, before arriving at the International Space Station around 24 hours later. It would have stayed there for ten days, during which time Nasa astronauts at the station would conduct a series of tests, before the Starliner undocked again and came back down to Earth.

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