United States

Starliner Glitch Pauses Historic NASA Mission Led By Veteran Astronaut Sunita Williams

NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore's Starliner spacecraft launch to the International Space Station (ISS) was postponed due to a valve glitch in the upper stage of the Atlas 5 rocket.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore, left, and Sunita Williams. Photo: AP

The highly anticipated launch of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft, set to carry NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore to the International Space Station (ISS), faced an unexpected setback. The launch was postponed following a valve glitch discovered in the upper stage of the rocket intended to propel it into space.

Tom Heter III, the director overseeing the launch from rocket company United Launch Alliance (ULA), announced the delay just two hours before the expected liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, United States.

NASA disclosed that the issue was linked to an oxygen valve on a component of ULA's Atlas 5 rocket. Consequently, the launch slated for May 6 had to be scrubbed. The astronauts, Wilmore and Williams, exited the Starliner spacecraft at the launch site and returned to astronaut crew quarters.

The Starliner flight marked the first human crewed flight for the spacecraft, with Williams and Wilmore at the helm. The delay came as a disappointment for the experienced astronauts, both with impressive backgrounds in naval aviation and previous space missions.

Despite the setback, Williams, who named the spacecraft "Calypso" in reference to explorer Jacques Cousteau's ship, remained resilient. Clad in their Boeing pressure suits, the astronauts awaited news of the next launch window, ready to embark on their celestial journey.

The Atlas 5 rocket, renowned for its reliability, was prepared for its milestone 100th flight to launch Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. However, the valve glitch led to the postponement of the historic launch.

If successful, the Crew Test Flight could mark the beginning of routine trips to the space station on NASA's behalf. Boeing has already outlined plans for six manned missions over the next six years.

NASA aims to utilize both SpaceX's Dragon and Boeing's Starliner for astronaut missions to the ISS, with the commercial crew missions being part of NASA's strategy since 2014. Boeing received substantial funding from the US federal government for the development of Starliner, alongside SpaceX.