Skip to main content

Boeing’s Starliner won’t fly on Tuesday after all

NASA had originally aimed to send Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on its first crewed voyage on May 6, but an issue surfaced with United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket just two hours before liftoff, prompting the launch to be scrubbed.

It was a setback for everyone involved — not least NASA astronauts Bob Wilmore and Suni Williams, who minutes before the launch was canceled, had been strapped into their seats inside the Starliner on the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But as NASA chief Bill Nelson said when the countdown clock was halted, safety must come first.

NASA revealed a revised targeted launch date of May 17, but this was pushed to May 21 after engineers discovered a “small helium leak” on the Starliner spacecraft that had to be dealt with.

Then, on Friday, NASA said that engineers will “take additional time to work through spacecraft closeout processes and flight rationale,” which means it’s now targeting launch for no earlier than 3:09 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 25.

It said the extra time would allow it to “further assess a small helium leak in the Boeing Starliner spacecraft’s service module traced to a flange on a single reaction control system thruster.”

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Boeing’s Starliner capsule remain in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Kennedy, while Wilmore and Williams are still being quarantined in Houston as prelaunch operations progress. They will fly back to Kennedy closer to the launch date.

When the long-awaited mission finally gets underway, the two astronauts will fly to the International Space Station, where they’ll spend about a week before returning to Earth in the Starliner.

A successful mission will pave the way for certification of the spacecraft, allowing NASA to use it for crew rotation flights to and from the ISS and providing it with another transportation option alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which performed its first crewed flight in 2020 and has since flown eight operational flights to the orbital outpost.

NASA will live stream the launch and early stages of the mission. Here’s how to watch.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
NASA sets new target launch date for Starliner spacecraft
The Starliner atop an Atlas V rocket.

The Starliner spacecraft sits atop an Atlas V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA/Joel Kowsky

After calling off the launch of Boeing Space’s Starliner spacecraft on Saturday with just minutes to go, NASA says it's now aiming to send the vehicle on its first crewed mission at 10:52 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 5.

Read more
First crewed flight of the Boeing Starliner scrubbed once again
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket is seen on the launch pad of Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, June 1, 2024

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft sits atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on the launchpad of Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Saturday, June 1, 2024. NASA Television

The planned crewed launch of the Boeing Starliner has once again been called off at the last minute. The launch today was scrubbed at 3 minutes and 50 seconds before liftoff due to a problem with the ground system. This is the second time that the first crewed mission using the Starliner has been called off shortly before launch, with a previous attempt on May 6 scrubbed due to a different issue with the rocket.

Read more
Watch Starliner heading back to the launchpad at Kennedy
Boeing Space's Starliner spacecraft heading back to the launchpad.

Boeing Space's Starliner spacecraft heading back to the launchpad atop an Atlas V rocket. NASA/Boeing Space

In a big step toward its first crewed flight, Boeing Space’s Starliner spacecraft and United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket were transported to the launchpad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday.

Read more