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Boeing Starliner capsule's first crewed check flight postponed moments earlier than launch By Reuters

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By Joey Roulette and Steve Gorman

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (Reuters) -A second try at launching Boeing (NYSE:)’s new Starliner house capsule on its inaugural check flight with NASA astronauts on board was mechanically halted with minutes to go earlier than liftoff by a computer-abort system, mission officers stated.

The scrubbed launch, capping a string of Eleventh-hour technical points that floor groups labored by way of and resolved earlier within the countdown, meant the extremely anticipated and much-delayed check flight can be postponed once more for at the least a day.

The subsequent accessible launch window for the mission is Sunday at about midday native time, adopted by two extra alternatives on Wednesday, June 5, and Thursday, June 6.

“We’re in a 24-hour scrub turnaround and trying to preserve that opportunity,” Mark Nappi, a Boeing vice chairman, instructed reporters at a day briefing. “We’ll take either that opportunity or the next one to come.”

Steve Stich, supervisor of NASA’s business crew program, stated “We got really close today.”

“I know it’s a little disappointing, we were all excited. This is kind of the way spaceflight is,” he stated.

Saturday’s postponement concerned computer systems on the Atlas (NYSE:) V rocket’s launchpad that coordinate the ultimate moments earlier than liftoff. The Starliner capsule appeared wholesome, officers stated.

The CST-200 Starliner’s first crewed voyage to the Worldwide Area Station (ISS), with two astronauts aboard, stays a key milestone for Boeing because it scrambles to realize a better share of profitable NASA enterprise now dominated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The gumdrop-shaped Starliner capsule had stood prepared for blastoff from NASA’s Kennedy Area Middle in Florida, perched atop the Atlas V furnished by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a three way partnership of Boeing and Lockheed Martin (NYSE:).

However with three minutes and 50 seconds left within the countdown clock after the ultimate “go” for launch was given by the flight director, a floor system laptop triggered an computerized abort command that shut down the launch sequence, in response to mission officers.

LOOKING FOR THE GLITCH

ULA Chief Government Tory Bruno stated the main suspects can be “either a hardware problem or a network communication” concern between three computer systems that management automated launch programs.

Technicians could possibly pinpoint the issue, permitting mission operators to firmly set a brand new launch timeline, as early as Saturday evening as soon as the rocket has been drained of gas and it was protected to look at the spacecraft up shut, Bruno stated.

Nappi stated no issues have been detected with the Starliner throughout Saturday’s aborted launch operations.

The primary try by Boeing to ship an uncrewed Starliner to the house station in 2019 failed resulting from software program and engineering glitches. A second attempt in 2022 succeeded, paving the best way for efforts at getting the primary crewed check mission off the bottom.

A Could 6 countdown was halted simply two hours earlier than launch time over a defective stress valve on the Atlas higher stage, adopted by weeks of additional delays attributable to different engineering issues, since resolved, on the Starliner itself.

The 2-member crew, NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, 61, and Sunita “Suni” Williams, 58, had been strapped into their seats aboard the spacecraft for a few hours earlier than launch actions have been suspended on Saturday.

Technicians safely assisted the astronauts out of the capsule and away from the launch tower after the flight was scrubbed, returning them to their quarters underneath quarantine to await the subsequent flight try.

It isn’t unusual within the house trade for countdowns to be halted on the Eleventh hour and for launches to be postponed for days or even weeks, even when seemingly minor malfunctions or uncommon sensor readings are detected, particularly in new spacecraft flying people for the primary time.

Boeing, whose business airplane manufacturing operations are in disarray after a number of crises, badly wants successful in house for its Starliner enterprise, a program a number of years not on time with greater than $1.5 billion in price overruns.

Whereas Boeing has struggled, SpaceX has developed right into a reliable house taxi service for NASA, offering the one technique of launching the ISS crew to orbit from U.S. soil.

NASA, backing a brand new technology of privately constructed spacecraft, sees Starliner as an essential second automobile able to ferrying astronauts to and from the house station, in addition to the moon and finally Mars underneath its formidable Artemis program.

As soon as launched, the Starliner is anticipated to reach on the house station after a flight of about 24 hours and dock with the orbiting analysis outpost some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.

Plans name for the 2 astronauts to stay on the house station for a few week earlier than using the Starliner again to Earth for a parachute and airbag-assisted touchdown within the U.S. Desert Southwest, a primary for crewed NASA missions.

Getting Starliner up to now has been a fraught course of for Boeing underneath a $4.2 billion fixed-priced contract with NASA that has since swelled to roughly $4.5 billion, in response to a Reuters overview of contract modifications because it was awarded in 2014.

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