Boeing’s historic mission was called off minutes before liftoff. Learn about the reasons and future plans.

Boeing Starliner launch

The highly anticipated launch of Boeing’s Starliner on its crewed maiden voyage was unexpectedly called off. This Boeing Starliner launch, set to make history, faced a sudden halt mere minutes before liftoff. The Starliner, perched atop an Atlas V rocket, was ready to soar from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station with veteran NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams onboard. However, the ground launch sequencer triggered an automatic hold that halted the countdown at 3 minutes and 50 seconds. This article delves into the details of this Boeing Starliner event, the subsequent steps taken, and the future of Boeing’s ambitious space endeavors.

Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed

The anticipation surrounding the launch of Boeing’s Starliner was palpable. Set for 12:25 p.m. ET, the mission intended to mark a significant milestone in space travel. The spacecraft, designed to rival SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, aimed to expand the options for ferrying astronauts to the International Space Station under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Yet, the ground launch sequencer triggered an automatic hold that halted this historic event.

Ground Launch Sequencer Triggers Hold

The countdown clock stopped at 3 minutes and 50 seconds due to an issue detected by the ground launch sequencer. This crucial computer system for launch operations identified a problem that warranted an immediate halt. Consequently, the mission teams promptly extracted the astronauts from the capsule, and both Williams and Wilmore returned to the crew quarters to await further instructions.

Next Steps and Future Launch Opportunities

NASA announced that they would not attempt a launch on the following Sunday. The next available window for liftoff is Wednesday at 10:52 a.m. ET, although they have not yet finalized a decision on this. Another backup opportunity is available on June 6. The mission teams must thoroughly assess the issue that caused the Boeing Starliner launch to be scrubbed before making any further attempts.

Understanding the Issue: Insights from Tory Bruno

Tory Bruno, president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, provided insights into the problem. To diagnose the issue, the teams needed to engage directly with the ground launch sequencer once the rocket was drained of fuel. This system, described as a large, integrated controller with separate components, requires all three redundant computers to agree for a launch to proceed. The delay in one of these computers triggered the automatic hold.

Previous Issues and Resolutions

Earlier in the day, the mission teams encountered other problems. Around 10 a.m. ET, they reported a loss of data from ground valves responsible for replenishing liquid oxygen and hydrogen. These components are vital for the rocket’s fuel supply. After a 45-minute delay and switching to a redundant system, the countdown resumed without further safety concerns for the crew. The teams closed the hatch on Starliner at around 11:20 a.m. ET.

Mission Goals and Historical Significance

The Crew Flight Test mission is pivotal for Boeing. It represents years of development and aims to showcase the Starliner’s capabilities. When launched, this Boeing Starliner mission will be only the sixth inaugural journey of a crewed spacecraft in U.S. history. Suni Williams will also make history as the first woman to participate in such a mission. The astronauts plan to test various systems, including the spacecraft’s thrusters, spacesuit functionality, and manual piloting capabilities.

Onboard Testing and Space Station Integration

Upon reaching orbit, the Starliner will separate from the Atlas V rocket and travel for over 24 hours to the International Space Station. Wilmore and Williams will join the existing crew for an eight-day stay, testing the spacecraft’s performance and its “safe haven” capability—a feature designed to protect the space station crew in emergencies.

Return Plans and Safety Measures

Williams and Wilmore will use the same Starliner capsule to return to Earth, landing in the southwestern United States. The earliest possible return date is June 10, with additional dates available if weather conditions are unfavorable. Throughout this mission, the teams prioritize safety and thorough testing.

Boeing Starliner launch – Challenges and Setbacks in Development

Boeing has faced several challenges during the development of Starliner, including test flight issues and costly setbacks. Despite these obstacles, this Boeing Starliner mission could represent the final major milestone before Starliner is ready for routine operations. Boeing aims to improve continuously, starting with this test flight and progressing to future missions.

Boeing Starliner launch – Technical Hurdles and Solutions

Earlier technical issues, such as a valve problem on May 6 and a helium leak, were resolved through meticulous assessment and decision-making. The helium leak, while minor, was deemed safe to manage, and no significant issues were reported during the launch countdown.

Propulsion System Vulnerability and Redundancy Plans

The teams identified a design vulnerability in the propulsion system, leading to the creation of a backup plan for the deorbit burn. This ensures that even in the unlikely event of certain thruster failures, the spacecraft can safely return to Earth.

Boeing Starliner launch Readiness

After a thorough flight readiness review, NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance confirmed the readiness of all systems and teams involved. They gave special attention to the parachutes, following a similar issue experienced by Blue Origin. The assessment concluded that Starliner’s parachutes were fit for flight.

Unexpected Anomalies and Last-Minute Adjustments

An unexpected pump failure on the space station’s urine processor assembly necessitated a last-minute cargo adjustment. The teams added a replacement pump to Starliner’s cargo, replacing two crew suitcases. This quick adaptation highlights the flexibility and responsiveness of the mission teams.

Boeing Starliner launch – Crew Preparation and Confidence

Both Wilmore and Williams have been in quarantine since late April to ensure their health prior to the launch. They remain confident in the rocket, spacecraft, and mission teams, underscoring the dedication and preparedness of everyone involved.

Boeing Starliner launch

The scrubbed launch of Boeing’s Starliner, though disappointing, reflects the meticulous safety protocols and thorough assessment processes essential in space exploration. The mission teams continue to work diligently to address the issues and prepare for the next opportunity. As Boeing’s Starliner aims to expand U.S. capabilities in space travel, each step taken brings us closer to a new era of exploration and collaboration.


Discover the thrill of space tourism

Are you passionate about space exploration and looking for a unique experience? Discover the thrill of space tourism with RocketBreaks. Whether you’re interested in the latest space missions or dreaming of your own journey to the stars, RocketBreaks offers exclusive insights and opportunities. Visit to learn more and embark on your space adventure today!



Previous Post
Sunita Williams Third Space Journey
Next Post
Maezawa ‘dearMoon’ Mission Cancels Moon Flyby