Updated May 7th, 2024 at 15:12 IST

Why Sunita Williams' 3rd Space Mission Was Aborted Hours Before Liftoff

The decision to postpone was made after NASA identified an off-nominal condition with the oxygen relief valve, prompting concerns about the spacecraft's safety.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Sunita Williams' 3rd Mission To Space Called Off Hours Before Lift-Off | Image:NASA

New Delhi: Just 90 minutes before liftoff, the much-anticipated launch of the Atlas V rocket, carrying astronaut Sunita Williams for her third space journey, was abruptly halted due to a technical snag. The launch, which was scheduled to propel Williams aboard the Boeing Starliner from Florida's Kennedy Space Center, faced a setback as NASA detected an anomaly with an oxygen relief valve. Consequently, the mission's liftoff time, initially set for 8:04 am (IST), was postponed indefinitely.

Why Williams' 3rd Mission To Space Was Called Off 

The decision to postpone was made after NASA identified an off-nominal condition with the oxygen relief valve, prompting concerns about the spacecraft's safety. As a precautionary measure, both Williams and her fellow astronaut, Barry Wilmore, who were slated to pilot the Starliner to the International Space Station, exited the spacecraft without incident. This mission held significant promise, as Williams was poised to make history as the first woman to embark on the maiden crewed mission of a new space shuttle.

Sunita Williams And Her Spaceflights

During her first spaceflight, Expedition 14/15, Williams was launched with the crew of STS-116 on December 9, 2006, docking with the International Space Station on December 11, 2006. While onboard, she established a world record for females with four spacewalks totalling 29 hours and 17 minutes. Astronaut Peggy Whitson subsequently broke the record in 2008 with a total of five spacewalks.


On Expedition 32/33, Williams was launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, along with Russian Soyuz commander Yuri Malenchenko and Flight Engineer Akihiko Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency, on July 14, 2012.

Williams spent four months conducting research and exploration aboard the orbiting laboratory.


She landed in Kazakhstan on November 18, 2012, after spending 127 days in space.

During their Expedition, Williams and Hoshide performed three spacewalks to replace a component that relays power from the space station’s solar arrays to its systems and repair an ammonia leak on a station radiator. With 50 hours and 40 minutes, Williams once again held the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut. The record has since been overtaken by Peggy Whitson. Williams has spent a cumulative total of 322 days in space.


Williams was born in Euclid, Ohio, to Indian-American neuroanatomist Deepak Pandya and Slovene-American Ursuline Bonnie (Zalokar) Pandya.

She holds a physical science degree from the US Naval Academy and a Master of Science in Engineering Management from Florida Institute of Technology. 


Williams received her commission as an Ensign in the United States Navy from the United States Naval Academy in May 1987.

Williams was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and is a veteran of two space missions, Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.


She served as a flight engineer on Expedition 32 and then commander of Expedition 33.


Published May 7th, 2024 at 12:34 IST