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Boeing postpones Starliner capsule launch attempt over valve issue

Boeing's Starliner space capsule is illuminated by spotlights at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida before dawn Monday. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA
Boeing's Starliner space capsule is illuminated by spotlights at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida before dawn Monday. Photo by Joel Kowsky/NASA | License Photo

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 3 (UPI) -- Boeing postponed the launch of its Starliner spacecraft Tuesday due to problems detected with valves in the capsule's propulsion system and said it would take additional time to prepare for a future launch.

Tory Bruno, CEO of rocket company United Launch Alliance announced the postponement of the launch Tuesday morning.

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ULA had planned to launch an Atlas V rocket carrying the uncrewed Starliner capsule into orbit at 1:20 p.m. EDT.

Bruno initially said another attempt may be made at 12:57 p.m. EDT Wednesday but Boeing later said "additional time is needed" to complete an assessment of the issue after engineering teams ruled out a number of potential causes including software.

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"We're going to let the data lead our work," said John Vollmer, Boeing vice president and program manager. "Our team has worked diligently to ensure the safety and success of this mission and we will not launch until our vehicle is performing nominally and our teams are confident it is ready to fly."

Boeing has staked its aerospace reputation on a successful test flight of the capsule to the International Space Station. The capsule failed to reach the space station in a similar test in December 2019 due to software malfunctions.

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"We're disappointed with today's outcome and the need to reschedule our Starliner launch," Vollmer said in a news release.

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"Human spaceflight is a complex, precise and unforgiving endeavor, and Boeing and NASA teams will take the time they need to ensure the safety and integrity of the spacecraft and the achievement of our mission objectives."

Starliner is part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program along with the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, which has ferried astronauts to the space station three times since May 2020. The program is designed to be competitive, with at least two spacecraft providing access to low-Earth orbit.

Before 2020, NASA spent nine years buying seats on Russian Soyuz capsules for up to $80 million each to reach the space station.

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Support teams work around the SpaceX Crew Dragon Resilience spacecraft shortly after it landed with NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Shannon Walker and Victor Glover and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi aboard in the Gulf of Mexico off Panama City, Fla., on Sunday. Photo by Bill Ingalls/NASA | License Photo

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