Boeing space flight aborted just minutes before lift-off

Boeing’s latest attempt to launch astronauts into space has ended in failure after a last-minute problem.

Two Nasa astronauts were strapped in to the company’s Starliner capsule when the countdown was halted at three minutes and 50 seconds by the computer system that controls the final moments before lift-off.

There was no time to work out the cause of the latest trouble and everything was called off.

Launch controllers were evaluating the data, a spokesman for United Launch Alliance said.

Boeing Astronaut Launch
Nasa astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore saw their mission aborted (John Raoux/AP)

The team cannot get to the computers to work out the problem until the rocket is drained of all its fuel, said Tory Bruno, CEO for the rocket maker, United Launch Alliance.

He said one of the three computers located near the rocket at the pad was sluggish, and all three must work properly to proceed with a launch.

If it is an easy fix, the next launch attempt could come on Sunday while Wednesday would be the next opportunity after this weekend.

“This is the business that we’re in,” Boeing spokesman Mark Nappi said. “Everything’s got to work perfectly.”

It was the second launch attempt. The first try on May 6 was delayed for leak checks and rocket repairs.

Nasa wants a back-up to SpaceX, which has been flying astronauts since 2020.

Boeing should have launched its first crew around the same time as SpaceX but its first test flight with no one on board in 2019 was plagued by severe software issues and never made it to the space station.

Boeing Astronaut Launch
Another launch attempt could be made on Sunday (Chris O’Meara/AP)

More valve trouble cropped up two hours before Saturday’s planned lift-off but the team used a back-up circuit to get the ground-equipment valves working to top off the fuel for the rocket’s upper stage.

Launch controllers were relieved to keep pushing ahead but the computer system known as the ground launch sequencer ended the effort.

“Of course, this is emotionally disappointing,” Nasa astronaut Mike Fincke, the back-up pilot, said from the neighbouring Kennedy Space Centre.

But he said delays are part of spaceflight. “We’re going to have a great launch in our future,” he added.

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