NASA and Boeing have scrubbed the launch of the Starliner to the International Space Station. The ground teams are assessing an issue that cropped up during pre-launch checks. Boeing and NASA have indicated that they will fly when it is safe to do so. The mission was called off due to a "faulty oxygen relief valve observation," said NASA

New Delhi: The launch team decided to stand down from the launch attempt of the Boeing Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS), about two hours before the launch. The mission was supposed to be the first crewed flight to the ISS on a Boeing spacecraft. An issue cropped up during the pre-launch procedures, which is why the launch has been scrubbed. A valve for maintaining the pressure of the fuel in the Centaur upper stage malfunctioned, causing the launch to be scrubbed. The teams are gathering more data before deciding on next steps.

The next available launch window is on 8th May, around the same time. After that, there are launch opportunities towards the end of the week, on Friday and Saturday. Engineering teams will be examining the valve, and if the valve is cleared for use, the flight can take place tomorrow. If the valve is faulty and needs to be replaced, more time may be necessary. Such delays are common when it comes to the launch of brand new hardware.

The Starliner Crew

For the first mission, Indian Origin astronaut Sunita Williams is the pilot, while Butch Wilmore is the commander. Both are veteran astronauts who provided inputs during the development of the crew module. While there are only two crew on board for the debut flight, the Starliner is meant for a crew of four, which is a standard rotation for the ISS. In fact, there is enough room on board the Starliner to accommodate a crew of seven.

The two astronauts on board will be the first to fly to the ISS on board a Boeing spacecraft. They will also be the first to return to the Earth on Land, for an American mission to the ISS. All American missions to the International Space Station so far, after the retirement of the Space Shuttles, have always ended in an ocean splashdown. Boeing has opted for a design that simplifies the recovery options.

Development of The Starliner

The Boeing Starliner is a class of partially reusable spacecraft designed to transport crew to the International Space Station and other low-Earth-orbit destinations.

Boeing awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to develop a vehicle for transporting crew to the American side of the ISS. SpaceX bagged a contract of #2.6 billion, while Boeing won a higher contract, worth $4.2 billion. The first Crew Dragon mission to the ISS took place in 2020, after which SpaceX has been operating regular crew rotations. The Starliner was supposed to be developed by 2017, but faced multiple delays. The first crewed test flight occurred in May 2022. The Starliner is expected to enter into regular service in 2025.