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Boeing postpones Starliner space capsule launch by minimum of 24 hours

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The much-anticipated launch of Boeing’s Starliner space capsule carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been postponed for at least 24 hours due to a ground system computer trigger that paused the countdown clock. The reason for the halt remains unclear, with the mission officials working to understand the issue. The astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, were scheduled for their first voyage on the Starliner amidst high expectations and delays as Boeing seeks to compete with SpaceX for NASA contracts. The launch had been rescheduled multiple times due to various technical issues that have since been resolved.

Boeing’s Starliner programme has faced significant challenges, with cost overruns and delays impacting its progress. The company is under pressure to make the Starliner venture a success as it competes with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which has become a reliable transport option for NASA missions to the ISS. The Starliner is set to rival SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule in the transportation of astronauts to space. The upcoming launch would mark the first crewed voyage to space using an Atlas rocket since the 1960s, with the capsule expected to dock with the ISS after a flight of about 26 hours.

Following the successful uncrewed Starliner mission in 2022, Boeing is now attempting to launch the first crewed test mission to the ISS. The astronauts are expected to stay at the space station for about a week before returning to Earth for a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the US desert. Depending on the outcome of the first crewed test flight, Boeing has plans for at least six more crewed missions to the ISS in collaboration with NASA. The competition between Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon highlights the growing importance of private spacecraft in NASA’s missions to space and beyond.

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