Boeing postpones its first manned mission to space

Boeing postpones its first manned mission to space
Boeing postpones its first manned mission to space

The anticipated manned launch of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft from the Cape Canaveral base in Florida (USA) has been postponed just about two hours before scheduled takeoff, the aerospace company announced this Tuesday. This interruption occurred shortly after a failure was detected in the V rocket that was going to propel the capsule, already occupied by two astronauts ready to go to the International Space Station (ISS). Despite preparations, which included refueling and favorable weather conditions, the launch could not take place.

“Tonight’s launch attempt has been postponed,” shared Bill Nelson, NASA administrator, on his social networks. “NASA’s first priority is safety. We’ll go when we’re ready,” Nelson continued. The postponement occurred after identifying an anomaly in a valve on the Atlas V rocket that would propel the capsule into orbit, according to the launcher manufacturer, United Launch Alliance (ULA).

Now, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who were already in their seats ready for takeoff, will have to wait for a new attempt. The date for this second attempt could be Tuesday, Friday, Saturday or next week, depending on the analysis of the ULA technicians. If it is necessary to replace the defective valve, the operation will take several days, Tory Bruno, head of ULA, said in a press conference.

Boeing has a lot at stake with this test mission, which seeks to allow it to join the select group of manufacturers of spacecraft capable of transporting human beings. The company must demonstrate the safety of its vehicle before starting regular missions to the ISS. For NASA, having a second transportation option for American astronauts, in addition to the SpaceX ship, represents a significant milestone in its space program.

A challenge for Boeing

The success of this mission would also be crucial for the credibility and reputation of Boeing, which faces serious questions over safety problems in its commercial aircraft. The Starliner development program has been marked by challenges and setbacks, and completion of this test is essential to reinforce confidence in the ship and the manufacturing company.

To date, only a few American spacecraft have managed to transport astronauts. SpaceX’s Dragon capsule joined this list in 2020, succeeding iconic programs such as Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and the space shuttle. After the shuttle retired, NASA astronauts relied on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to travel to space.

In an effort to reduce this dependence, NASA signed million-dollar contracts in 2014 with Boeing and SpaceX to develop new spacecraft. Despite differences in financing, the company managed to move more quickly in its development, according to Elon Musk, a South African tycoon and owner. With Starliner operational, NASA plans to alternate flights between the two companies to transport astronauts to the ISS. Furthermore, looking to the future, these ships could be used to carry humans to private space stations after 2030, when NASA withdraws from the multinational collaboration orbital platform. @mundiario

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