Digital Media Center
Bryant-Denny Stadium, Gate 61
920 Paul Bryant Drive
Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0370
(800) 654-4262

© 2024 Alabama Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Another delay for an Alabama built rocket and NASA’s new astronaut capsule

Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket is seen at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station a day after its mission to the International Space Station was scrubbed because of an issue with a pressure regulation valve, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP
/
AP
Boeing's Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket is seen at Space Launch Complex 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station a day after its mission to the International Space Station was scrubbed because of an issue with a pressure regulation valve, Tuesday, May 7, 2024, in Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

NASA, Boeing, and a rocket builder in Alabama are facing another delay in the liftoff of a new kind of spacecraft. Engineers found a helium leak on part of the Starliner spacecraft. Mission managers are now targeting no earlier than this coming Tuesday for the launch of an Alabama built Atlas Five rocket carrying the new Starliner. That also means more time on the ground for the two astronauts assigned to fly the Boeing capsule. Veteran astronaut Barry Wilmore flew once on the space shuttle and once on the Russian Soyuz capsule. Prior to the first launch attempt, he talked about being on the ground floor in the development of the new Starliner.

“We've had our we've got our fingerprints on every single procedure that exists for this spacecraft. And that's part of what the test process is. It's test and development. And that's what we've really been involved with,” Wilmore said.

The leak is associated with the Service Module on the bottom of the Starliner. The complete spacecraft is seated on top of the Alabama built Atlas-V. The drum shaped Service Module has jet thrusters to adjust the path of the Starliner, and to boost the orbit of the International Space Station. The Service Module also has powerful engines to push the capsule free of the Atlas-V in case of a major problem during launch. Wilmore’s crewmate, and the pilot of Starliner, is veteran astronaut Sunita Williams. She said prior to the original liftoff try that she and Wilmore are looking forward to docking the capsule to the orbiting space station, and making themselves useful.

“We will be happy to help out the guys who are up there on the ISS (International Space Station) for whatever they're doing. I think Butch and I both like doing maintenance. You know, we are we're tool guys. And so if there's anything that needs to happen for the space station, we are ready to, to do that,” Williams said.

This is the first time an Alabama built Atlas-Five rocket has carried people. APR news previously reported how the launch of Starliner will make both astronauts Wilmore and Williams among a group of around ten space veterans who’ve flown to orbit on three different types of vehicles. The first was Mercury pioneer Wally Schirra who also went to space on the two-man Gemini capsule, and the first test launch of the three-man Apollo craft that later carried astronauts to the Moon.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
Related Content
News from Alabama Public Radio is a public service in association with the University of Alabama. We depend on your help to keep our programming on the air and online. Please consider supporting the news you rely on with a donation today. Every contribution, no matter the size, propels our vital coverage. Thank you.