NASA Establishes Fresh Launch Objective for Starliner Spacecraft

The Starliner positioned on an Atlas V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The Starliner positioned on an Atlas V rocket at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Following the cancellation of the Boeing Space’s Starliner spacecraft launch on Saturday just moments before liftoff, NASA now aims to launch the vehicle on its inaugural manned mission at 10:52 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 5.

United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas 5 rocket is set to carry NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams aboard the Starliner from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

In an announcement made on Sunday, NASA revealed that ULA technicians and engineers spent the weekend evaluating the launchpad’s ground support equipment, which faced issues during Saturday’s countdown, leading to the postponement of the mission.

“The ULA team identified a problem with a single ground power supply in one of the three redundant chassis that supplies power to a subset of computer cards controlling various system functions, including the card responsible for the stable replenishment topping valves for the Centaur upper stage,” NASA stated. “All three of these chassis are necessary for the final phase of the launch countdown to ensure crew safety.”

To address the issue, the chassis containing the faulty ground power unit was removed, visually inspected, and replaced with a spare chassis, NASA reported, mentioning that no physical damage was observed. The space agency indicated that a comprehensive failure analysis of the power unit will be conducted to ascertain the root cause of the incident. It also confirmed that all hardware is functioning as expected following functional tests of the new chassis and cards.

The U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron forecasts a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions for Wednesday’s launch. In case the launch does not proceed on that day for any reason, there will be another opportunity for liftoff the next day.

The objective is to transport the Starliner to the International Space Station (ISS). Wilmore and Williams are scheduled to spend a week there before returning home in the spacecraft through a parachute-assisted landing.

The Starliner has encountered numerous delays over the years, primarily due to technical challenges, and has undertaken two unmanned flights previously. The initial test in 2019 failed to reach the ISS, while the second mission in 2022 successfully docked with the orbital laboratory.

The first manned flight was initially planned for May 6, but a few hours before launch, engineers faced an issue with the Atlas V rocket. Subsequently, a helium leak was discovered on the Starliner, leading to further delays. Several other launch attempts have come and gone. NASA, Boeing Space, Wilmore, and Williams are all hopeful that the long-awaited mission will finally commence on Wednesday.

Refer to Digital Trends’ article for guidance on how to view the live stream of the launch.

Evan Brooks

Hey there! I'm Evan Brooks, a tech journalist based in New York City. With a knack for distilling complex industry jargon into engaging narratives, I've… More »

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