Boeing Starliner capsule’s first crewed flight delayed over rocket glitch

By Nathan Gomes, Shivansh Tiwary and Nilutpal Timsina

(Reuters) – Boeing’s <BA.N> long-awaited first crewed test flight of the new Starliner space capsule was called off for at least 24 hours over a technical issue that launch teams could not resolve in time for the planned Monday night lift-off.

The latest flight was scrubbed with less two hours left in the countdown as the capsule stood poised for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop an Atlas V rocket furnished by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

Two years after its initial uncrewed journey to the International Space Station (ISS), Boeing’s new Starliner astronaut capsule was set for its first crewed test flight on Monday night, following numerous delays.

Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft, developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is engineered to carry up to seven passengers, or a combination of crew and cargo, for journeys to low-Earth orbit.

Riding aboard the Starliner were NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, 61, a retired U.S. Navy captain, and Sunita “Suni” Williams, 58, a former Navy aviator and test pilot.

Here’s a quick rundown of key events in the past few years:

Sept. 4, 2015 – Boeing takes the wraps off an assembly plant for its first line of commercial spacecraft, which NASA plans to use to fly crews to the ISS.

Nov. 4, 2019 – Boeing says one of three parachutes failed to open during a crucial unmanned test of the Starliner.

Dec. 20, 2019 – Boeing successfully launches its new astronaut capsule on an uncrewed debut journey to the ISS.

Dec. 22, 2019 – The spacecraft makes a “bullseye” landing in the New Mexico desert.

Jan. 7, 2020 – NASA and Boeing investigate software glitches that stopped the capsule from reaching the ISS.

Feb. 6, 2020 – Boeing narrowly misses a “catastrophic failure” during its December flight test.

Aug. 25, 2020 – The first Starliner crewed mission is tentatively slated for 2021.

Oct. 7, 2020 – The chief astronaut for Starliner crewed flight to the ISS, Chris Ferguson, steps down from the job, citing family priorities.

July 29, 2021 – A space station mishap prompts NASA to postpone the launch of the Starliner.

Aug. 3, 2021 – Boeing postpones a Starliner launch after new glitch.

Aug. 13, 2021 – Boeing returns the spacecraft to the factory to resolve a valve issue, delaying the launch date.

May 19, 2022 – The Starliner capsule launches on a do-over uncrewed test flight bound for the International Space Station.

May 20, 2022 – The new Starliner crew capsule docked for the first time with the International Space Station.

Aug 25, 2022 – Boeing targets early 2023 for the first Starliner mission carrying astronauts.

June 1, 2023 – Boeing says it is standing down from late preparations for its first crewed Starliner test flight to space, which was planned for July 2023, after it discovered two safety-critical issues with the spacecraft.

Boeing Starliner capsule's first crewed flight delayed over rocket glitch
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket, is prepared for launch of the Starliner-1 Crew Flight Test (CFT), in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S., May 5, 2024. REUTERS/Joe Skipper