Boeing Starliner Crewed Launch Delayed Indefinitely

The highly anticipated crewed maiden voyage of Boeing’s Starliner has been delayed indefinitely, and NASA has not provided a new launch date. The delay is due to ongoing assessments of flight rationale, system performance, and redundancy.

The Latest Delay

The most recent update comes after several delays this month and a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module. The leak was traced to a flange on a single reaction control system thruster. Despite tests showing the leak doesn’t pose a threat, further evaluations are needed.

NASA’s Statement

NASA stated, “Pressure testing performed on May 15 on the spacecraft’s helium system showed the leak in the flange is stable and would not pose a risk at that level during the flight. The testing also indicated the rest of the thruster system is sealed effectively across the entire service module. Boeing teams are working to develop operational procedures to ensure the system retains sufficient performance capability and appropriate redundancy during the flight.”

Significance of the Mission

This mission, called the Crew Flight Test, is crucial for Boeing’s spacecraft to be deemed ready for routine operations under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It’s a significant step, as it could mark the sixth maiden voyage of a crewed spacecraft in US history.

Previous Delays

The historic crewed flight was about two hours from liftoff on May 6 when it was scrubbed due to an issue with a valve on the second stage of the Atlas V rocket. This delay followed several others, including a helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module.

Crew Members and Preparations

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, who were set to crew the mission, have returned to Houston to spend time with their families while awaiting further instructions. They had been in preflight quarantine before the delays.

Boeing Starliner Crewed Launch
Boeing Starliner Crewed Launch

Boeing’s Historic Goals

Boeing has been developing the Starliner for a decade, aiming to rival SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule. The goal is to expand US options for ferrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS). This mission is a culmination of those efforts.

Comparison to SpaceX

While Boeing has faced numerous challenges, SpaceX has become the go-to provider for NASA’s astronaut transportation. This rivalry has pushed both companies to innovate and improve their spacecraft.

Technical Issues and Delays

The development of the Starliner has been marred by technical issues and costly setbacks. The recent helium leak and a pressure regulation valve issue on the Atlas V rocket are the latest in a series of problems.

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Upcoming Launch Plans

If the spacecraft does launch as planned, it will detach from the Atlas V rocket after reaching orbit and begin its journey to the ISS. The vehicle will spend over 24 hours making its way to the station.

Mission Duration

Williams and Wilmore are set to spend about a week at the ISS, joining the current crew of astronauts and cosmonauts. The Starliner will remain docked outside the station during this time.

Return and Landing

The crew will return home aboard the Starliner capsule, which will parachute to a landing at one of several designated locations in the southwestern United States.

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Future Prospects

The successful completion of this mission would mark a major milestone for Boeing and its Commercial Crew Program. It would also provide NASA with an additional option for manned space missions.


The delay of Boeing’s historic crewed launch is a setback, but it highlights the rigorous safety and performance checks that are essential for space missions. As Boeing and NASA continue to address the issues, the anticipation for the Starliner’s maiden voyage grows.


What caused the latest delay in Boeing’s Starliner launch?

The latest delay was caused by a helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module and ongoing assessments of system performance and redundancy.

When was the Starliner crewed mission originally scheduled?

The mission was originally scheduled for May 6 but has faced multiple delays since then.

Who are the astronauts set to crew the Starliner mission?

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are set to crew the mission.

How long will the astronauts stay at the International Space Station?

The astronauts are set to stay at the ISS for about a week.

What is the significance of this mission for Boeing?

This mission is crucial for Boeing as it could mark the final major milestone before their spacecraft is deemed ready for routine operations under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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