The Boeing Starliner's trip to the International Space Station has hit another hurdle. The craft was scheduled for a second uncrewed test flight to the ISS today, July 30th, after its first attempt went awry back in late 2019. But, it will have to wait a bit longer for take off. NASA and Boeing have decided to push back the launch to the tentative date of Tuesday, August 3rd.
The delay comes after the thrusters on the ISS' new Russian module Nauka accidentally activated causing the station to move out of orientation. Though ground teams managed to regain control and motion of the ISS, NASA is proceeding with caution.
"The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival," the agency said in a statement.
The completion of the second test flight is a critical part of the Starliner's development phase that will be followed by the first of six crew rotation missions. NASA added that launch preparations would resume pending a final decision from the ISS and Commercial Crew Program teams.
In the meantime, staff are assessing whether to move the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket — atop which the Starliner is placed — from the launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station back to the Vehicle Integration Facility. While both are mission-ready, the move is seen as a mitigation measure to protect them from weather damage.
The delay is the latest in a series of setbacks that have thus far prevented the Starliner from reaching the ISS. In December 2019, the Boeing craft suffered an automation issue during its first test flight that caused it to miss its planned orbit. While the second test flight has been held up since late last year due to ongoing software checks.