• Rocket issue delays first launch of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft at Kennedy Space Center

    By: James Tutten

    Updated:

    BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - The first flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft from Brevard County to the International Space Station will have to wait.

    Boeing and United Launch Alliance are now targeting a Dec. 19 launch for the uncrewed test flight after the discovery of an issue with the Atlas V rocket that will power the mission.

    ULA says additional time was needed to replace a rocket component, and both the Atlas V and Starliner are healthy as they move through the prelaunch processing.


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    Boeing and ULA had been targeting a date two days earlier, until the discovery of the issue with a rocket component. 

    Officials said additional time was needed to replace a "purge air supply duct" and complete processing ahead of launch.

    "Particularly because this is a first launch of a new vehicle, those are always more inclined to slip for technical reasons," said Dale Ketcham, with Space Florida.

    Boeing's uncrewed orbital flight test will set the stage to launch with astronauts in 2020.  

    "After the uncrewed test flight, NASA's got to take all that data and pour over it, analyze, make sure are not any kinks we still need to work out," Marie Lewis, with NASA's public affairs office, said.

    Both Boeing and SpaceX are working toward ferrying astronauts to the ISS as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. 

    SpaceX completed the unmanned flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft in March, but has yet to complete an in-flight abort test to demonstrate the capsule's ability to carry astronauts to safety in the event of an emergency. 

    "I think there's a real hope that by the spring that someone is putting someone in a capsule," Ketcham said. "We don't know if it'll be Boeing or SpaceX at the end of the day."

    Once Starliner's maiden flight is complete, NASA will get a better idea of when a crew will take flight.

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