The first crewed test flight of the Boeing Starliner capsule with Sunita Williams is scheduled for May 17

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NASA astronaut Sunita Williams prepares to board Boeing’s Starliner capsule atop an Atlas V rocket for a mission to the International Space Station Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, May 6, 2024. The launch was aborted. | Photo credit: AP

The target date for the next attempt to launch Boeing Co’s Starliner space capsule on the first crewed test flight by Indian-American Sunita Williams has been pushed back to no earlier than May 17 to replace a pressure valve on its booster rocket, NASA said on Tuesday.

The debut voyage of the CST-100 Starliner carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has been highly anticipated and much postponed as Boeing scrambles to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX for a greater share of NASA’s lucrative business.

The test flight was canceled Monday evening, with less than two hours to go, after a pressure control valve failed on the upper stage liquid oxygen tank of the Atlas V rocket that was supposed to carry the new capsule into orbit.

The two-man crew – NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore, 61, and Sunita Williams, 58 – were strapped into their seats aboard the spacecraft for about an hour before launch operations were suspended.

The rocket, a separate part of the Starliner capsule, was supplied for the mission by United Launch Alliance (ULA), a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

After the aborted launch attempt on Monday evening, NASA, Boeing and ULA announced that they would try again as early as Friday, May 10.

But in an update posted Tuesday evening, NASA said more time was needed after ULA “decided to remove and replace the defective pressure valve.” That requires the rocket to be rolled back to its hangar on Wednesday for repairs, leak checks and other assessments ahead of a second launch attempt, NASA said.

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These operations pushed the potential launch date back another week, NASA said.

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