Boeing Crewed Space Capsule Launch Scrubbed Amid Years of Delays and Difficulties

Evan Poellinger | May 7, 2024

Boeing’s Starliner Space Capsule was scheduled to launch at 10:34 PM Monday on its first crewed flight, but was ultimately scrubbed after being delayed for years by technical problems.

Astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams were set to launch to the International Space Station (ISS) for a week-long evaluation of the spacecraft before it would join SpaceX’s Crew Dragon as one of two vehicles used by NASA for its commercial crew program. The crewed flight represents the final step in a lengthy evaluation process for the capsule.

However, concerns with the rapid opening and closing of a pressure regulation valve on the rocket’s liquid oxygen tank led to a mission delay two hours before launch. Technicians will now work to examine the valve and determine if it needs to be replaced.

Unfortunately, this delay represents only the latest stumbling in a lengthy evaluation process that has already been extended by years, as a result of various issues that have plagued the Starliner.

In December, 2019, Calypso, the capsule being used for the crewed flight test, suffered a software anomaly that caused the spacecraft to fire its engines for orbital burn too early, preventing it from docking with the ISS. A second software error that was addressed just before the capsule’s return almost resulted in the loss of the spacecraft according to NASA chief of human spaceflight Doug Loverro. Boeing’s second orbital flight test in May, 2022, which was successful, was delayed for almost a year because of problems with propulsion valves on the Starliner.

Boeing’s problems in space are slightly less severe and deadly than those it has faced on the ground. The company has reported core operating losses of $31.9 billion in the wake of two deadly crashes of its 737 Max aircraft, along with other accidents of varying severity, such as a fuselage blowout on an Alaska Airlines 737 earlier this year.

Boeing has also been haunted by accusations that its prioritization of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) ideology  has resulted in internal rifts which have brought about a neglect of quality manufacturing.

Hopefully, despite these numerous stumblings, the stars will eventually align for Boeing and NASA. Godspeed, Wilmore and Williams.