Boeing Starliner’s Inaugural Manned Mission Postponed by Valve Fault

( – Boeing’s first manned mission to the International Space Station has been postponed due to a valve fault.

The company was planning to launch its Starliner capsule, but The United Launch Alliance halted the mission after a liquid oxygen self-regulating solenoid relief valve was found to be faulty. The ULA released an update on May 8 announcing that the rescheduled launch would take place no earlier than May 17. NASA astronauts Sunita “Suni” Williams and Barry “Butch” Wilmore were to man the flight. According to the ULA the team requires more time to carry out its assessment. The take-off was originally scheduled for 10:30 P.M. on May 6.

The valve fault is related to the Atlas rocket run by the ULA, not the Starliner capsule sitting on top of the rocket. Alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Boeing is aiming to be the second private company to send manned transport to and from the ISS. The company’s mission has been delayed for years due to complications in the development of the Starliner. The Starliner saw an unmanned test flight in 2019. During the test flight it experienced a malfunction of its internal clock, thrusters over-firing and software glitches. Because the Starliner used so much fuel in the test mission it could not reach the ISS. The craft experienced further delays to its second test mission due to issues with its propulsion systems. When the second mission did go ahead there were problems with the Starliner’s cooling system and some of its thrusters.

Though Boeing is not involved with the manufacturing of the Atlas rockets, after issues with the Starliner capsule itself it marks the latest in a series of safety concerns linked to the manufacturer. Two whistleblowers – 45-year-old Joshua Dean and 62-year-old John Barnett – died suddenly following a number of serious safety issues plaguing the company. Dean died following a sudden antibiotic-resistant infection and Barnett died of a gunshot wound, which was reportedly self-inflicted. Boeing along with SpaceX was hired by NASA ten years ago to transport astronauts to and from the ISS after the space agency ceased its shuttle program. Billions were paid to the two companies for the missions.

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