Boeing Starliner Launch Delayed: What to Know About the Mission and Crew

Boeing’s highly anticipated launch of the Starliner spacecraft, carrying two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), faced a setback as the planned Monday evening launch was called off due to a faulty oxygen relief valve observation by NASA.

This mission, years in the making, serves as a critical demonstration before the spacecraft can be approved for routine trips to orbit, with this being the first orbital flight test with a crew on board.

The Starliner, designed to ferry astronauts and cargo to and from the ISS, is part of NASA’s partnership with private industry, similar to Elon Musk’s SpaceX capsule. However, Boeing has faced delays compared to its competitor, SpaceX.

The two NASA astronauts set to embark on the commercial crew mission are Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams, both experienced Navy test pilots who have flown in space multiple times.

Wilmore, a retired Navy captain, completed 21 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm before joining NASA, where he has logged 178 days in space. Williams, a former Naval test pilot, has flown over 30 different aircraft and logged 322 days in space since her first flight in 2007.

During the mission, the astronauts will spend over a week testing the Starliner spacecraft and its subsystems before returning to Earth for a parachute and airbag landing in the American Southwest.

NASA will provide live coverage of the rescheduled launch, which is targeted for 10:34 p.m. ET on a date yet to be announced. Viewers can watch the coverage on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency’s website.

Boeing’s contract with NASA, awarded in 2014 as part of the commercial crew program, aimed to develop spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit. Alongside SpaceX, Boeing received funding to support NASA’s scientific missions, including the Artemis lunar program.

While the delay is a setback, engineers express confidence in the upcoming launch, emphasizing rigorous testing and design redundancy in human spaceflight processes. Once certified, the Starliner and its systems will be ready for crewed rotation missions to the ISS, marking a significant milestone in space exploration.

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