United Launch Alliance delays the first crewed Boeing Starliner launch

Credit: Boeing Space | X

United Launch Alliance has delayed the launch of the first crewed Starliner launch to no earlier than May 17th at 6:16 pm ET.

The delay comes after an upper-stage liquid oxygen pressure relief valve didn’t fully close and was making a noise as pad crew were loading astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams into their capsule.

Lift-off was scheduled for 10:34 p.m. ET, but the delay came just before the T minus 2-hour mark, right after both astronauts were fully strapped into their seats.

ULA was hoping to resolve the issue while the rocket was still at the pad, but due to the need to replace the valve, teams will need to roll the rocket back to the Vertical Integration Facility to access the area where the valve is located on the Centaur upper stage.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule does not need to be removed, but ULA will need to “stretch” the upper stage to depressurize Centaur before technicians can open it up and replace the valve, according to ULA’s CEO Tory Bruno. He also added that if this were a satellite launching, they would have cycled the valve, which in past launches they have done to fix the issue, but their flight rules with astronauts and launch personnel at the pad, they do not change the fuel state of the rocket for safety reasons.

This is just the latest delay to hit Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which was originally scheduled to launch a crewed flight test as early as 2017, but Boeing faced increasing issues, including a near loss of the vehicle on the first orbital flight test (OFT) that forced them to conduct a second OFT which was fully successful. In the lead-up to the Crewed Flight Test, Boeing encountered more problems, including removing flammable tape, parachute issues, and software reviews.

Once the valve is replaced, ULA will roll the rocket back to the launch pad in preparation for another launch attempt on May 17th. During this delay, both astronauts will remain in quarantine while they wait for their ride to the International Space Station.

Questions or comments? Shoot me an email at rangle@teslarati.com, or Tweet me @RDAnglePhoto.

Richard Angle: Launch journalist, specializing in launch photography. Based on the Space Coast, a short drive from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pads.
Related Post
Disqus Comments Loading...