NASA, Boeing Target June 5th for Critical Starliner Test Flight After Computer Glitch

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NASA and Boeing are aiming to finally get the long-awaited Starliner crew capsule off the ground and headed for the International Space Station on June 5th. The two partners reset the launch date after resolving a computer issue that prevented the spacecraft’s liftoff this past Saturday just minutes before its planned launch atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

During the June 1st launch attempt, one of the three redundant ground computers responsible for managing the terminal countdown failed to properly sync up after exiting a planned hold. With the computers not in agreement, the launch had to be automatically aborted at T-minus 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

According to NASA, the issue was traced to a faulty power supply unit for the problematic computer hardware. United Launch Alliance has now replaced the entire computer rack containing that component with a refurbished spare unit. Checkouts over the weekend confirmed the new hardware is functioning normally.

“ULA has completed functional checkouts of the new chassis and the cards, and all hardware is performing normally,” NASA stated in an update.

With the technical issue addressed, the agencies are now targeting a launch window opening at 10:52 a.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 5th from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. There is also a backup opportunity available on Thursday, June 6th should any other problems arise.

Forecasted weather remains favorable, with a 90% chance of acceptable conditions during the Monday launch window according to meteorologists. NASA did not indicate any other issues being tracked with the Atlas V rocket or Starliner spacecraft itself.

The upcoming Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission is the final uncrewed demonstration required before NASA can certify Starliner to begin regular operational crew rotation flights to the space station. During CFT, veteran astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will spend about a week aboard the ISS evaluating Starliner’s systems.

While an embarrassing setback, the latest launch delay is just another in a long line of schedule slips for Boeing’s crew capsule program over its development. NASA views having a second transportation vehicle like Starliner as vital redundancy for assured U.S. access to the orbital lab.

If all goes well, Starliner could join SpaceX’s Crew Dragon in servicing the space station by early 2025. But the capsule must first complete this critical test flight without any major issues to stay on that timeline.