Boeing Starliner launch postponed just before takeoff

The Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft on the launchpad of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S., May 7, 2024. /NASA

The Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft on the launchpad of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, U.S., May 7, 2024. /NASA

The first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner spaceship was postponed around two hours before takeoff after a new safety issue was identified, officials said Monday.

“Standing down on tonight’s attempt to launch Starliner,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said on X. “As I’ve said before, NASA’s first priority is safety. We go when we’re ready.”

A screenshot of Bill Nelson’s tweet on May 7, 2024.

A screenshot of Bill Nelson’s tweet on May 7, 2024.

The decision to scrub the launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida came just two hours before the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket was due to lift off at 10:34 p.m. ET on Monday and just minutes after NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams had been strapped into their seats inside the Starliner spacecraft.

Details are still coming through about the decision to stop the countdown clock, but commentators on NASA’s official livestream said it was due to an issue with an oxygen relief valve on Centaur, the second stage of the Atlas V rocket.

The CST-100 Starliner test mission, a years-delayed milestone after more than $1 billion in cost overruns, will ferry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in a final demonstration before the spacecraft can be approved to fly routine space trips under the space agency’s commercial crew program.

Read more: Boeing to send first astronaut crew to space after years of delay

(With input from agencies)