Boeing’s Starliner Scrubbed Minutes Before Launch (Updated) 

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Just four minutes before liftoff, the launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule was once again scrubbed due to a “technical issue.” A retry was possible as early as Sunday, but NASA announced late Saturday that it was pushing the next attempt back to at least Wednesday at 10:52 a.m. EDT to troubleshoot a balky launch control computer.

The mission, called Crew Flight Test, was expected to launch Saturday morning from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. This incident marks the second time within a month that a planned launch has been scrubbed. Starliner’s initial launch, slated for May 6, was also postponed just two hours before liftoff due to an issue with an oxygen relief valve, which has since been rectified.  

“The launch attempt of NASA’s Boeing Starliner Crew Flight Test, which will carry NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to and from the International Space Station, has been scrubbed as teams evaluate the ground launch sequencer. More information will be forthcoming,” NASA wrote in a statement.

Boeing says Starliner was designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit. The Starliner is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time.

Amelia Walsh
Amelia Walsh is a private pilot who enjoys flying her family’s Columbia 350. She is based in Colorado and loves all things outdoors including skiing, hiking, and camping.

15 COMMENTS

    • Absolutely! Just do it right is the name of the game. Heavenly is being on terra firma wishing you were aloft. Hellish is being aloft wishing you were on terra firma. Were Apollo 1’s crew, Challenger’s STS-51-L crew, and Columbia’s STS-107 crew still alive they would be the first to say so.

  1. If it’s Boeing, it ain’t going.
    But with each iteration, they seem to be getting closer to t minus zero.

  2. If memory serves, there were computer problems with the first uncrewed launch, which prevented the Starliner from reaching the proper orbit to rendezvous with the ISS. Seems like getting the little things right is their main problem.

  3. The frustration over launch delays, such as Boeing’s Starliner, may be compounded by memories of prior space accidents and their causes. Historically, space exploration has faced setbacks due to technical failures, accidents, and even tragedies resulting in loss of life.

    I vividly remember the Challenger disaster in 1986, where the Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, and the Columbia tragedy in 2003, when the Space Shuttle Columbia disintegrated upon re-entry. Both serve as emotional reminders of the risks and complexities involved in space missions.

    These accidents, along with others, were caused by a variety of factors, including technical malfunctions, engineering oversights, organizational issues, and sometimes a combination of these elements. Each incident has left an indelible mark on the collective consciousness of space agencies, engineers, astronauts, and the public, highlighting the need for rigorous safety protocols, thorough testing procedures, and continuous improvement in spaceflight technology. For the sake of the crew members and the success of the mission, I am glad precautions are predominant.

  4. NASA has estimated that the Starliner program, once it actually launches, will have a cost per seat of $90 million versus $55 million per seat for SpaceX. Why should the taxpayers be paying Boeing that much more than SpaceX?

    If the Starliner had launched on schedule and been proven reliable, there would be an argument. But the program is years behind and has proven to be anything but reliable. Meanwhile Falcon 9s launch, are recovered and reused on a regular basis.

    Any commercial business will be scooped up by SpaceX with their lower cost. The Starliner will only be able to get NASA business, making it even more economically uncompetitive.

    It’s time to write off the sunk cost and pull the plug.

    • “Any commercial business will be scooped up by SpaceX with their lower cost.”

      I think Space X, or any one private company, having a monopoly on the rocket business would be bad for America. It needs to be competitive to keep costs down and innovation up.

        • My point was we need more than one private company competing for the rocket business. If Space X gobbles them all up – as Jay suggested would happen – you just have one.

      • You are right, a monopoly doesn’t work. Disregarding the international launch efforts, the best alternate to SpaceX in the US is probably Blue Origin, not Boeing.

  5. It’s curious how nearly all the press on the Starliner scrubs cite only Boeing as the manufacturer. The first scrub was caused by a problem with a valve on the Atlas 5 rocket (ULA), the second caused by a helium leak in the service module (Boeing contract to L3Harris), and the latest caused by a launch computer problem (ULA). Two of the three scrubs have nothing to do with Boeing’s product–the capsule and service module that rides the ULA rocket–but Boeing is getting all of the blame.

    Is this “red meat” for the Boeing=bad crowd that doesn’t know–or care–about the various components and manufacturers? It will be telling if, upon eventual mission success, the media credits Boeing and ULA, or whether it will suddenly be tag-lined as “the NASA Starliner mission aboard a ULA Atlas 5 rocket.”

    • I think the real red meat isn’t Boeing, it’s NASA. An organization that once was a huge success that seemed very mission oriented, but now seems to be yet another captured institution without the same focus and leadership as it once had.
      If anything, Boeing catches flack because it also seems to be an institution without its former spirit.
      No doubt these were always political organizations, but that was in a time when failure to achieve was not tolerated politically.

      • On the other hand, NASA awarded two contracts for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability: one to SpaceX (Falcon Heavy + Crew Dragon) and one to ULA/Boeing (Atlas V + Starliner). One of those NASA-sponsored projects has demonstrable success. If one is to blame NASA for the problems with Starliner, one should also credit NASA for the success of Crew Dragon. NASA aside, my point remains: it’s journalistic malpractice to blame Boeing for a problem with a ULA component.

  6. The reason that NASA awarded both Space X and Boeing contracts were to get away from being dependent on the Russians for access to space. Having two contractors provided redundancy in case one of them ran into some unforeseen difficulty causing them to be unable to fly for some period. While cost was a factor, it was not seen as the overall factor. The Russian seats were expensive but again there was more at stake than just money. The Russians could have cut us off at any time and denied us access to the ISS.

    There is no argument that Boeing fumbled in the design and building of the Starliner but we and the media should be cheering them on to be successful and providing the U.S. with a second route to space. I have always been a Space X fan but without competition, they could become a less desirable choice as time goes on. Besides, they are still a relatively small privately held company that could experience financial issues that curtail its operations. Space X just turned a small profit the first quarter of this year after two years of losses. They are spending billions of dollars on their next rocket design, the Starship and still have a way to go before it is fully operational.

    I believe Boeing will get the Starliner into space and be a productive spacecraft. If one really wants to be critical of a space program NASA’s Artemis is one to look at. After 20 years of development, using leftover parts from the Shuttle and other projects, it has flown once. The Orion capsule also has its problems that NASA is working on despite capsule technology being around now for 60+ years. It took the U.S. and NASA less than 10 years to design, build, test, and fly the missions to the moon. NASA has been working on the Artemis system for 20 years and has flown only once and then only to LEO.

    One other point about this latest Starliner scrub. This technical issue had nothing to do with the Starliner capsule itself. The fault was in a ground computer which was part of the ULA launch equipment. Starliner had a clean bill of health and was ready to fly.

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