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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

2 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.