When to Watch Boeing Starliner Launch After Nauka Causes 'Spacecraft Emergency' at ISS

NASA and Boeing decided on Thursday to postpone a CST-100 Starliner launch to the International Space Station (ISS) that was scheduled for Friday following a mishap involving a newly docked Russian module.

The launch of the Starliner—a reusable capsule designed to transport crew to the ISS—is now scheduled to take place next week. NASA said the earliest available launch opportunity is 1:20 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, August 3, with an immediate backup window set for August 4.

Friday's launch was scheduled to be shown on NASA TV. While the space agency has yet to release next week's viewing schedule for the TV channel, it is likely that the delayed launch will also be streamed live on the platform.

The Starliner was set to lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but an issue with a Russian space module that had recently docked with the ISS scuppered the launch.

The Russian multipurpose laboratory module Nauka had docked with the space station, with seven crew members aboard, just a few hours before the scheduled liftoff of the Starliner.

But then a number of its jet thrusters began firing inadvertently, moving the ISS out of its normal flight orientation, Joel Montalbano, manager of NASA's space station program, told reporters in a press conference, according to Reuters.

This "loss of attitudinal control" lasted just over 45 minutes until the teams on the ground were able to maneuver the ISS back into its normal orientation using the control thrusters on another module.

Montalbano said there was "no immediate danger at any time" to the crew, which comprises two Russian cosmonauts, three NASA astronauts, a Japanese astronaut and a French astronaut, although ground crews briefly lost communication with the space station twice.

No Sign of Damage

In addition, there was no immediate sign of any damage to the ISS, although NASA officials declared the incident a "spacecraft emergency," Reuters reported. It isn't yet clear what caused Nauka's thrusters to malfunction, according to NASA.

The space agency said the postponement of the launch will give the ISS team time to conduct checks of the Nauka module to ensure that the station will be ready for the arrival of the Starliner.

"We wanted to make sure we had some breathing room to fully assess the situation on [the space] station before adding another vehicle to the ISS configuration," Kathy Lueders, an associate NASA administrator, told reporters during the conference call.

The launch—dubbed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2)—is the second uncrewed flight test of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The aim of the mission is to test the capabilities of the Starliner from launch to docking with the ISS.

The capsule will be occupied by Rosie the Rocketeer, Boeing's anthropometric test dummy.

CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. NASA/United Launch Alliance