Valve issue forces Boeing to postpone historic astronaut launch

After months of anticipation, Boeing’s first-ever astronaut launch was called off at the last minute due to a valve problem in the Atlas V rocket. The launch was scheduled for Monday night (US EST) at Cape Canaveral space station, with two NASA test pilots ready to journey to the International Space Station. However, the countdown was halted two hours before lift-off when the issue was discovered.

This is the latest in a series of delays for Boeing’s first crew flight, which has been on hold for years due to capsule complications. The Atlas V rocket, which is manufactured by United Launch Alliance (a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin), experienced a problem with an oxygen pressure-relief valve on the upper stage. The valve was opening and closing rapidly, causing a buzzing noise and possibly exceeding its maximum lifetime cycles of 200,000.

United Launch Alliance’s chief executive, Tory Bruno, stated that this issue may have to be resolved by replacing the valve, which could push the launch into next week. In an update, NASA announced that the launch will not take place until at least Friday. Bruno also mentioned that similar valve problems have occurred in the past with Atlas rockets launching satellites, but those were resolved by restarting the valves. However, stricter safety protocols are in place for astronaut flights, prohibiting this type of procedure when crew members are on board.

As a result, the two-member crew of NASA astronauts, Barry “Butch” Wilmore, 61, and Sunita “Suni” Williams, 58, had to be removed from the Starliner capsule by technicians and returned to await a future launch attempt. NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stich, stated that the agency is taking a cautious approach and will only launch when it is safe to do so.

This is not the first setback for Boeing’s Starliner program. The first test flight without a crew failed to reach the space station in 2019, resulting in a repeat flight. Additionally, the company encountered issues with parachutes and flammable tape. NASA awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX a decade ago to transport astronauts to and from the space station, after the shuttle program ended, with a total cost of billions of dollars.

The Atlas V rocket has a successful track record, having been in operation for over 20 years since it was initially designed by Lockheed Martin. However, the valve problem highlights the complexity and risks involved in sending humans into space. Boeing and United Launch Alliance will continue to work on resolving the issue and ensure a safe and successful launch for the Starliner capsule and its crew.

Share this article
Shareable URL
Prev Post

“Al Gore’s Investment Firm Increases Stake in Octopus Energy as Valuation Reaches £7.2bn”

Next Post

Labour claims government is ‘gaslighting’ the public regarding economic state

Read next