NASA, Boeing scrub Starliner's high-stakes ISS launch at last minute

Boeing's Starliner Capsule Atop A United Launch Alliance Rocket At Kennedy Space Center
(Image credit: Boeing)

Boeing's second shot at launching a capsule to the International Space Station has been scrubbed again, this time due to an unexpected issue with the spacecraft.

"During pre-launch preparations for the uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, Boeing engineers monitoring the health and status of the vehicle detected unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system," Boeing said in a statement. "The issue was initially detected during check outs following yesterday’s electrical storms in the region of Kennedy Space Center."

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The next launch attempt window, which was scheduled for 1:20PM EDT on August 3, will be on Wednesday, August 4, at 12:57PB EDT. This second launch attempt came after the first attempt had to be scrubbed last week when a Russian module attached to the ISS fired its thrusters unexpectedly, pushing the ISS off its orbital trajectory.

The ISS trajectory was corrected, but not in time to save the first Starliner launch attempt. This time, however, the problem was with the Boeing spacecraft itself. We've reached out to Boeing for further details about what happened and will update this article if we receive any new information.

Analysis: Boeing's Starliner hits another snag, raising already high stakes

After Boeing's failure in 2019 to dock its Starliner capsule with the ISS, there has been increased pressure on the company to deliver.

Boeing has received an unfathomable amount of money from NASA contracts over the decades and has been an integral part of the American space program going back to the 1960s-era Apollo program.

You can't rest on your laurels though, no matter how well earned. SpaceX has been tightly contesting Boeing's space dominance for years and was the first NASA Commercial Crew partner to bring astronauts to the ISS in August 2020, which also made it the first private spacecraft to do so.

Meanwhile, Boeing – with its storied history of spaceflight – has been struggling to match SpaceX's recent achievements. We aren't even talking about bringing astronauts up to the ISS yet, we're just talking about getting a capsule to the ISS. Needless to say, the stakes for this rocket launch were already high for Boeing, and each setback just raises them further, fairly or not.

John Loeffler
Components Editor

John (He/Him) is the Components Editor here at TechRadar and he is also a programmer, gamer, activist, and Brooklyn College alum currently living in Brooklyn, NY. 

Named by the CTA as a CES 2020 Media Trailblazer for his science and technology reporting, John specializes in all areas of computer science, including industry news, hardware reviews, PC gaming, as well as general science writing and the social impact of the tech industry.

You can find him online on Threads @johnloeffler.

Currently playing: Baldur's Gate 3 (just like everyone else).