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Starliner targets Wednesday after yet another scrub

Boeing and NASA are now targeting Wednesday for Starliner’s first crewed launch, following yet another attempt being scrubbed at the weekend.

The rocket had been due to blast off on Saturday, but the mission was postponed due to a “faulty ground power unit” that encountered issues during the countdown.

Technicians replaced the chassis containing the malfunctioning part with a spare but opted against a quick launch in order to go again on 5 June.

It was the fourth major issue with the launch, which was originally due to travel to the ISS a month ago. NASA has a lot riding on its success, given that it is currently only able to send astronauts to space via SpaceX’s rival Dragon capsule.


In a statement released on Sunday, NASA said, “Technicians and engineers with ULA (United Launch Alliance) worked overnight and on Sunday to assess the ground support equipment at the launch pad that encountered issues during the countdown and scrubbed the 1 June launch attempt.

“The ULA team identified an issue with a single ground power supply within one of the three redundant chassis that provides power to a subset of computer cards controlling various system functions, including the card responsible for the stable replenishment topping valves for the Centaur upper stage.

“All three of these chassis are required to enter the terminal phase of the launch countdown to ensure crew safety.

“On Sunday, the chassis containing the faulty ground power unit was removed, visually inspected, and replaced with a spare chassis.


“No signs of physical damage were observed. A full failure analysis of the power unit will be performed to better understand root cause.

“Meanwhile, ULA has completed functional checkouts of the new chassis and the cards, and all hardware is performing normally.”

NASA added that there is a “90 per cent chance” of favourable weather conditions for the next launch, which will see Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams spend a week on the ISS before returning to land in the southwestern United States.

The mission is the final test flight before NASA certifies the vehicle for regular operational missions starting as soon as next year.

Starliner was initially due to blast off to the ISS earlier last month, but the mission was scrubbed at the last minute because of a faulty valve on the rocket’s Centaur upper stage.

A subsequent attempt on 17 May was also repeatedly delayed, this time due to a helium issue. Finally, a third problem was found to be linked to a flange in a thruster in the spacecraft’s service module.

May’s scrubbed launches are the latest in years of issues for Starliner, which Boeing hopes will be able to regularly send US astronauts into space much like SpaceX’s rival Dragon capsule.

Starliner’s first attempt at an uncrewed flight failed in 2019 due to software glitches, but it eventually docked with the ISS in May 2022.

Boeing also has a lot riding on the success of Starliner, given years of problems with its best-selling 737 MAX aircraft.

In March, Space Connect’s sister brand, Australian Aviation, reported how Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun and chairman Larry Kellner would both leave the aerospace giant by the end of the year amid a broader leadership reshuffle.

Calhoun said the Alaska Airlines Flight 1282 accident in January, where an emergency exit door plug blew off a brand-new 737 MAX 9 over Portland, was a “watershed moment” for the company.

Boeing is now facing a criminal investigation over the incident, which led to the sacking of the head of its 737 program.

Adam Thorn

Adam Thorn

Adam is a journalist who has worked for more than 40 prestigious media brands in the UK and Australia. Since 2005, his varied career has included stints as a reporter, copy editor, feature writer and editor for publications as diverse as Fleet Street newspaper The Sunday Times, fashion bible Jones, media and marketing website Mumbrella as well as lifestyle magazines such as GQ, Woman’s Weekly, Men’s Health and Loaded. He joined Momentum Media in early 2020 and currently writes for Australian Aviation and World of Aviation.

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