Technical glitches postpone Sunita Williams’ Boeing X NASA Starliner launch to the ISS – Firstpost

Technical glitches postpone Sunita Williams’ Boeing X NASA Starliner launch to the ISS – Firstpost
Technical glitches postpone Sunita Williams’ Boeing X NASA Starliner launch to the ISS – Firstpost

Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore at the launch. Image Credit: NASA, AFP

The much-anticipated launch of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is facing an unexpected delay of at least 24 hours due to a technical hiccup with the Atlas V rocket.

The decision to push the flight came with less than two hours remaining in the countdown, leaving crew members Sunita Williams, and Barry Wilmore strapped in their seats for an hour before the postponement formally was announced.

Preparations for the launch were in full swing on Monday night at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The Starliner, which was supposed to be launched using an Atlas V rocket provided by the United Launch Alliance, was the result of a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin and was all set for liftoff.

Why was the launch canceled?
The delay arose mainly because of an issue with a valve in the Atlas rocket’s second stage, which surfaced during a live broadcast by NASA. The exact timeline for resolving the problem remains uncertain, but as of now, other potential launch windows are being considered. In all likelihood, NASA may reschedule the launch for Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, Eastern Time

Following the cancellation, technicians safely assisted Williams and Wilmore out of the capsule, and escorted them back to the launch complex.

Last-minute setbacks like these are often triggered by minor malfunctions or abnormal sensor readings and are not uncommon during launches.

The anticipation around Starliner’s first crewed flight continues to at its peak, despite the setback.

What is Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore’s mission?
The mission planned for the Starliner is very promising. With a collective experience of 500 days in space from their previous missions to the space station, both, Williams and Wilmore were chosen to spearhead the Starliner’s first crewed flight. While Wilmore was the commander of the flight, Williams assumed the role of the pilot.

The journey to the ISS was for 26 hours, which would end with Williams docking the capsule at the International Space Station (ISS), approximately 400 km above Earth. Upon arrival, Williams and Wilmore would have joined the ISS’s resident crew, which consists of four US astronauts and three Russian cosmonauts.

Their mission at the space station was to span about a week, during which they would engage in various scientific experiments and some maintenance tasks that are crucial for the station’s operations. Notably, the return journey was set to highlight an innovative landing system, which used parachutes and airbags for a touchdown in the US Desert Southwest. This marked the first employment of such a system in crewed NASA missions.

The success of Boeing’s flight test would have paved the way for Starliner to embark on a series of crewed missions to the space station for NASA. The outcome of this maiden voyage holds immense significance, and can majorly shape the trajectory of future missions in space exploration.

(With inputs from agencies)

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