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Boeing's Starliner landing in December 2019. Photo: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

Boeing has decided to re-fly an uncrewed test of its Starliner capsule after a troubled mission in December.

Why it matters: The decision delays Boeing's plans to fly people to space from U.S. soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.

  • It also puts the company firmly behind SpaceX, which plans to launch NASA astronauts to the International Space Station as early as May.

Details: Boeing announced the redo on Monday evening, putting to rest speculation from others in the industry that they might press ahead with a crewed flight despite failing to dock with the space station in December.

  • A series of issues prevented the Starliner's planned docking and sparked an investigation by an independent board that recommended 61 corrective measures to the company.
  • "Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer," Boeing said in a statement.
  • The company expects to re-fly the uncrewed mission sometime this fall, though no date has been announced.
"This is exactly why NASA decided to select two partners in the commercial crew effort. Having dissimilar redundancy is key in NASA’s approach to maintaining a crew and cargo aboard the space station and to keeping our commitments to international partners. It also allows our private industry partners to focus on crew safety rather than schedule."
NASA said in a statement

The big picture: Years of delays have pushed back NASA's plans to get Boeing and SpaceX flying astronauts to the space station, forcing the space agency to rely on Russian rockets and capsules.

  • This year was expected to mark the big moment when both companies would start flying humans for the first time.
  • While SpaceX is still publicly on track toward its first human launch in May, it's not yet clear how the pandemic might affect its plans, and it's looking less likely that Boeing will be able to stage its own crewed flight before the year is out.

Go deeper: The coronavirus pandemic is setting back the space industry

Go deeper

Senate retirements could attract GOP troublemakers

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.). Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Roy Blunt's retirement highlights the twin challenge facing Senate Republicans: finding good replacement candidates and avoiding a pathway for potential troublemakers to join their ranks.

Why it matters: While the midterm elections are supposed to be a boon to the party out of power, the recent run of retirements — which may not be over — is upending that assumption for the GOP in 2022.

Congressional diversity growing - slowly

Data: Brookings Institution and Pew Research Center; Note: No data on Native Americans in Congress before the 107th Congress; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of non-white senators and House members in the 535-seat Congress has been growing steadily in the past several decades — but representation largely lags behind the overall U.S. population.

Why it matters: Non-whites find it harder to break into the power system because of structural barriers such as the need to quit a job to campaign full time for office, as Axios reported in its latest Hard Truths Deep Dive.

Staff for retiring Senate Republicans a K Street prize

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The retirements of high-profile Senate Republicans mean a lot of experienced staffers will soon be seeking new jobs, and Washington lobbying and public affairs firms are eyeing a potential glut of top-notch talent.

Why it matters: Roy Blunt is the fifth Republican dealmaker in the Senate to announce his retirement next year. Staffers left behind who can navigate the upper chamber of Congress will be gold for the city’s influence industry.