Boeing Starliner’s crew debut delayed again over spacecraft issue

By Thomson Reuters May 14, 2024 | 11:46 AM

By Joey Roulette

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Boeing’s first Starliner mission carrying humans to space was delayed to May 21 over issues with the spacecraft’s propulsion system, Boeing said on Tuesday.

Starliner’s mission carrying two NASA astronauts to space had been set for liftoff from Florida last week until a technical issue with its Atlas 5 rocket prompted a delay to Friday, May 17, the latest postponement for a program years behind schedule and over $1.5 billion over budget.

A new technical issue, now concerning Starliner itself, has prompted another postponement to at least next Tuesday, Boeing said in a statement.

“Starliner teams are working to resolve a small helium leak detected in the spacecraft’s service module,” Boeing said, adding that engineers traced the leak to a component on one of the propulsion system’s 28 control thrusters that are used for maneuvering in Earth’s orbit.

Boeing has been developing Starliner for over a decade to provide NASA with a second U.S. spacecraft capable of ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, built under the same NASA program, first launched humans to space in 2020.

Starliner’s latest mission, called the Crewed Flight Test, will be the final test before the spacecraft is certified by NASA to fly routine astronaut missions to the ISS. Boeing completed an uncrewed Starliner trip to the ISS in 2022 following years of technical and management issues.

(Reporting by Joey Roulette)