NASA postpones launch of Boeing's new space taxi

NASA postpones launch of Boeing's new space taxi

How will Boeing Co.'s Starliner space taxi be launched to the International Space Station remains unclear after its engineers detected a problem with valves on a propulsion system on the vehicle.

The launch of the aerospace giant's Starliner capsule was planned for Aug. 3 but officials decided to postpone the flight because some valves on a Starliner propulsion system weren't properly configured, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Officials said they could try to fly the vehicle to the space station on Aug. 4 but later nixed that possibility, saying engineers needed time to assess what happened with the valves.

Boeing has faced problems with the Starliner before. A dented the record of a company that has been at the forefront of U.S. space exploration, including the Apollo missions to the moon. The Starliner is the latest in an array of new rockets, capsules and other weapons aimed at furthering U.S. ambitions in a space race to Mars and beyond :

The Starliner would give the U.S. more options to reach the low Earth orbit and the Space Station. U.S. astronauts had to hitch rides on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get there after the retirement of NASA Space Shuttle in 2011. NASA opted to outsource a replacement through its formal Crew Program and picked Boeing and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. with the commercial name for s SpaceX, in order to provide space taxi services

The CST 100 Starliner was slated to deliver more than 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies and bring back material including oxygen tanks. She was expected to have a mannequin named Rosie the Rocketeer aboard.

NASA plans to stream the Starliner launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida when the flight occurs live.

NASA says the Starliner will run in all for five to 10 days. The Starliner is expected to return to Earth at a facility in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

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The flight was postponed because of an issue with some valves in a vehicle's propulsion system, said the company and NASA.

Boeing said its engineers conducting prelaunch checks of the Starliner detected the issue on Monday after electrical storms near the launch site, initially detecting the issue.

Officials originally scheduled the flight to begin from July 30 because a Russian space vehicle mistakenly fired its thrusters on the International Space Station the day before, forcing the station to take a tilt.

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A software error left the spacecraft in the wrong orbit, ground controllers had difficulty communicating with the vehicle and a third computer problem affected its thrusters. Spacecraft returned safely to earth after two days, although NASA said they could have made it to the station if astronauts were on board.

Boeing and NASA completed multiple reviews and tests in advance of the latest launch. Boeing used a fixed-price contract with NASA to bring a $410 million charge for the second test mission and will ferry the cargo to and from the space station for free.

Before the Starliner can carry astronauts to the space station, Boeing must complete the test flight without crew members on board. A second Starliner capsule has been meant to carry astronauts until as early as November to the Space Station if the testing goes as planned and NASA certifies the Starliner. The reusable spacecraft can fly 10 times and can be refurbished within six months.

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The Starliner can carry seven astronauts or a mix of crew and cargo. It is directed on the same Atlas V series rockets used to launch military satellites by the joint venture between Boeing and Corp. The spacecraft is piloted, however there are backup controls that allow it to be autonomous. It is designed for land-based returns, after descending under parachutes, with air bags to cushion the landing.

The SpaceX Crew Dragon has been carrying cargo to the space station since 2012 and brought its first astronauts back to the space station in May 2020. The fully autonomous Dragon is and has seven seats. However, only four are used for NASA missions like the Starliner. It is designed to land in the ocean under parachutes.

Boeing is one of the world's largest space companies, with analysts reporting annual revenue of around $6 billion from the business last year. It has already helped build the International Space Station this year and designed a range of satellites.

This is the year for Boeing's space ambitions. Beyond the Starliner, it makes the body of the Space Launch System, an enormous deep space rocket that will carry astronauts. After years of delay, a ground test in March paved the way for a launch at the end of the year as part of the U.S. Space Administration with China this week.