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Starliner takes flight. Photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Boeing's uncrewed CST-100 Starliner will not make it to the International Space Station after a serious, post-launch malfunction on Friday.

Why it matters: Boeing was initially expected to launch its first crewed mission to the station in early 2020, but Friday's technical issues may call that already nebulous timeline into question.

Details: Starliner took flight at 6:36 a.m. ET atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral.

  • According to Boeing, the malfunction occurred in an automated clock designed to keep the spacecraft on track while in space.
  • The clock problem put the mission in limbo, forcing Starliner to burn more fuel than expected and precluding a docking with the station.
  • Boeing added that the spacecraft is now in a stable configuration and will be able to come back down to Earth, landing in New Mexico on Sunday at the earliest.

Between the lines: According to NASA, if astronauts were onboard during this flight, they may have been able to salvage the mission and make it to the space station.

  • "We train extensively for this type of contingency, and had we been on board there could have been actions that we could have taken," NASA astronaut Nicole Mann said during a press conference.

The big picture: NASA has contracts with Boeing and SpaceX to fly astronauts to the space station in order to end the space agency's dependence on Russia's Soyuz spacecraft for flights to orbit.

  • Development of these systems has been long-delayed by budget shortfalls and technical issues.

What's next: It's not yet clear what this failure will mean for Boeing's program at large.

  • According to NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine, it's still too early to tell if the company will be expected to launch another uncrewed test flight ahead of a crewed launch.

Editor's note: This story was updated with new information from a post-launch press conference with NASA and Boeing officials.

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Biden's plan to accelerate the reopening of K-8 schools faces major challenges from a still out-of-control pandemic and more contagious coronavirus variants.

Why it matters: The longer American kids miss in-person schooling, the further they fall behind. But the uncertain state of the science on the role young children play in the pandemic continues to complicate efforts to reopen schools.

Focus group: Former Trump voters say he should never hold office again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"Relief" is the top emotion some swing voters who used to support Donald Trump say they felt as they watched President Biden's swearing-in, followed by "hope."

Why it matters: For voters on the bubble between parties, this moment is less about excitement for Biden or liberal politics than exhaustion and disgust with Trump and a craving for national healing. Most said Trump should be prohibited from ever holding office again.

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