During the night, a ship is waiting.

The liftoff was canceled approximately two hours before the scheduled launch time. The astronauts were seated in their seats.

Photo: Getty Images / Joe Raedle

Yet another setback for the first crewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft: its takeoff to the International Space Station, already several years late, was canceled on Monday, just two hours before the scheduled launch, due to a technical problem.

An anomaly has been identified on a valve of the Atlas V rocket, which should propel the capsule Starliner in orbit, announced the launcher manufacturer, the group United Launch Alliance (ULA).

A new takeoff attempt could theoretically take place as early as Tuesday evening, as well as Friday, Saturday or mid-next week, but the new date will depend on the analysis carried out by the teams of ULA a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

If it turns out that the valve needs to be replaced, the operation would take several days declared during a press conference Tory Bruno, the boss of ULA. He assured that his teams would work All night long and should be able to deliver their analysis Tuesday morning.

The crew was never in danger.

A quote from Tory Bruno, boss of ULA

ULA indicated that a new attempt, depending on the analysis carried out by its teams, could take place as early as Friday.

Teams need additional time to do a full assessment, we are aiming for the next attempt on Friday May 10th at the earliest.wrote ULA on the social network

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American astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were scheduled to take off Monday evening from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The preparations initially went smoothly: the rocket had been filled with fuel, the weather was ideal and the astronauts were seated in their seats. In the end, they will still have to wait.

An Atlas V rocket seen from afar.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft aboard an Atlas V rocket taxis towards its launch pad at Cape Canaveral on May 4, 2024.

Photo: Reuters / Steve Nesius

Boeing is playing big on this final test mission, which should allow it to join the very restricted club of spaceships that have transported human beings.

The aerospace industry giant must demonstrate its vehicle is safe before beginning regular missions to the International Space Station (ISS) – four years late SpaceX.

Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore smile.

The inaugural crew of the Starliner: Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore.

Photo: Reuters / Joe Skipper

For the NASA who ordered this vehicle ten years ago, the stakes are high: having a second vehicle, in addition to that of SpaceX, to transport American astronauts is very important underlined Dana Weigel, program manager of the SSI.

This capacity will make it possible to better respond to different scenarios emergency, for example in the event of a problem on one of the ships, she explained.

A story of disappointments

The success of this mission would also be more than welcome for Boeing, in turmoil over safety problems on its planes, and whose development program Starliner turned into a saga marked by unpleasant surprises and setbacks.

In 2019, during a first uncrewed test, the capsule could not be placed on the correct trajectory and returned without having reached the ISS.

Then, in 2021, while the rocket was on the launch pad to retry the flight, a problem with blocked valves on the capsule led to another postponement.

The empty ship had finally managed to reach the SSI in May 2022.

Boeing then hoped to be able to carry out the first manned flight the same year, but problems discovered late, in particular with the parachutes braking the capsule during its return to the atmosphere, again caused delays.

There were a number of things that were surprises that we had to overcome, Mark Nappi, manager at Boeing, said at a press conference. But this made our teams very stronghe assured.

It is quite typical that the development of a space vehicle for humans takes ten years.

A quote from Mark Nappi, manager at Boeing

Only a handful of American ships have carried astronauts in the past.

The Dragon capsule SpaceX joined this list in 2020, succeeding the legendary Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle programs.

After the latter stopped in 2011, the astronauts of the NASA had to travel aboard Russian Soyuz ships.

It is to put an end to this dependence that in 2014 the American space agency signed a contract worth 4.2 billion US dollars with Boeing and 2.6 billion US dollars with SpaceX for the development of new vessels.

Despite this difference in funding, SpaceX finished four years early”,”text”:”SpaceX finished four years early”}}”>SpaceX finished four years ago its competitor, did not fail to recall on Monday the boss in the former emerging company, Elon Musk. Far too many managers are not technicians at Boeinghe tackled.

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Once Starliner operational, the NASA wishes to alternate between flights SpaceX and Boeing to transport its astronauts to the SSI.

After the retirement of the SSI in 2030, the two vessels could be used to transport humans to future private space stations, which several American companies are already planning to build.

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