Boeing is to attempt the second uncrewed test flight of its new Starliner capsule to the International Space Station as it bids for more NASA contracts.
While the capsule has been successfully tested on the ground, orbital test flights for the CST-100 have faced several delays and software problems.
Boeing and NASA are aiming to use a resupply mission on 30 July to demonstrate that the spacecraft can launch, dock with the International Space Station, re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and perform a desert landing safely.
Boeing’s first orbital test of Starliner in 2019 ended in failure when the capsule did not rendezvous with the ISS due to a software problem, although it successfully landed back on Earth two days later.
As a result of this failure, Boeing asked to attempt a second mission with NASA and will be paying the entire cost of the supply run – an estimated $410m (£297m). However, an earlier launch date in March was postponed.
The launch this July, if it does go ahead, will take place at the Kennedy Space Centre at Cape Canaveral in Florida – America’s primary launch site due to its proximity to the ocean and the speed boost rockets receive from the rotation of the Earth.
It follows a successful SpaceX launch back in May 2020 which saw astronauts travel into space from US soil for the first time since the space shuttle programme was retired.
Both the SpaceX mission and Boeing’s test of the Starliner capsule are being undertaken as part of NASA’s commercial crew programme, enlisting private companies to enable the space agency to send astronauts to the ISS.
Following the end of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011, NASA has depended entirely on Russia’s space agency Roscosmos to send its astronauts to the ISS.
In addition to supplies and equipment, also travelling on the Starliner capsule will be a dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer, strapped in the commander’s seat with the aim of maintaining the spacecraft’s centre of gravity.
Rosie will be dressed in Boeing’s bright blue spacesuit, the same one astronauts will wear when they are flying on the Starliner.
NASA has already selected the first two groups of astronauts who will travel to the International Space Station on the Starliner when it is cleared for operation.
Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann and Barry “Butch” Wilmore are set to become the first astronauts to take part in the Crew Flight Test mission, essentially a demonstration proving Boeing’s ability to take astronauts to the ISS and bring them back safely.
After that test flight, astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps will form the crew for Boeing’s first-ever operational crewed mission to the ISS.
Kevin McCarthy: US House Speaker removed from office for first time in history
US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been removed from office after a historic challenge to his leadership from his own party.
The Republican faced a motion to vacate, which was triggered by Donald Trump ally Matt Gaetz on Monday, just months after securing the position in 15 rounds of voting.
It is the first time in the country’s history that House representatives have voted the Speaker out.
Behind closed doors early on Tuesday, Mr McCarthy told fellow Republicans: “If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago.”
Several Republicans, however, had said they were sticking with Mr McCarthy as they emerged from the meeting, during which they said he received standing ovations.
It follows a decision made by Mr McCarthy over the weekend to cooperate with the Democrats to keep the government running rather than risk a shutdown.
It is a move that angered Mr Gaetz and other far-right Republicans, as Mr McCarthy relied on Democratic votes to pass a temporary funding extension on Saturday that avoided a partial government shutdown.
A band of about 20 Republicans had forced Mr McCarthy’s hand by repeatedly blocking other legislation.
Mr Gaetz and his allies said they were frustrated by the slow pace of spending legislation on Mr McCarthy’s watch.
Republican Representative Tim Burchett, who said he would vote to oust Mr McCarthy, said: “We took a whole month of August off. I think that that’s pretty telling.”
Another day of history in US politics
It’s political pantomime, without the laughs.
To look at the House of Representatives is to see the turbulence of America’s political ecosystem.
The ousting of Kevin McCarthy leaves the lower chamber of Congress in a state of paralysis.
There will be an interim Speaker but his or her role will effectively amount to finding a permanent replacement.
It is a dysfunction at the heart of power, an extension of the fault lines that fracture the modern-day Republican Party.
Never before has a House Speaker been ejected in this way, another day of history in US politics
The history-makers at the wheel have travelled a distance from the party fringes to positions of influence.
Matt Gaetz is the high-profile House representative who tabled the motion to oust McCarthy.
He’s prominent amongst a hard-line conservative core of House Republicans, Trump-aligned, and bent on reshaping party traditions and reorientating its trajectory to the right.
It is a tail that can wag the dog and this episode is clear evidence of it.
The rules dictate that just one representative – Mr Gaetz in this case – can trigger a vote to oust the Speaker.
That arrangement was a deal Mr McCarthy struck in January to appease his party’s right wing and enable his accession to the position of Speaker.
It didn’t look like clever politics by Mr McCarthy at the time and it looks even less so today.
Today, politics are harder in a party whose politics have changed.
Not all are convinced by Mr Gaetz’s intentions, with some Republicans believing he is angling for a change at a higher office.
“It seems very personal with Matt. It doesn’t look like he’s looking out for the country or the institution,” Mr McCarthy said.
Mr Gaetz has denied he is spurred on by a dislike of Mr McCarthy.
Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to three firearm charges
Hunter Biden, the son US President Joe Biden, has pleaded not guilty to three federal firearm charges filed against him after a plea deal collapsed.
He is accused of lying about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun, which he kept for around 11 days.
Abbe Lowell, his lawyer, told the court in Wilmington, Delaware, on Tuesday he plans to file a motion to dismiss the case, challenging their constitutionality.
While the president’s son has admitted to struggles with a crack cocaine addiction over the period in question, his lawyers insist he didn’t break the law.
These kind of gun charges are rare, and an appeals court has found banning drug users from guns violates the Second Amendment.
The case remains on track for a possible trial just as the 2024 election looms.
This breaking news story is being updated and more details will be published shortly.
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Woman sues Disney theme park over claims water slide gave her ‘painful wedgie’
A woman is suing Disney over claims a water slide at one of its theme parks left her with serious injuries.
In a lawsuit filed in Orange County, Florida, last week, the woman claims the Humunga Kowabunga slide at Walt Disney World gave her “severe vaginal lacerations”.
Warning: The article below contains details some people may find distressing
After going on the ride at Typhoon Lagoon as part of her 30th birthday celebrations in 2019, she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital before being moved to another that specialised in gynaecological injuries, court documents say.
There medics found she had a “full thickness laceration” of the vagina, which “caused the plaintiff’s bowel to protrude through her abdominal wall and damage her internal organs”.
She is seeking $50,000 (£41,400) in damages from Disney, Sky News’ US partner network NBC News reports. The lawsuit said the Humunga Kowabunga slide puts riders at risk of a “painful wedgie”.
According to court documents, she went on the ride wearing a one-piece swimming costume with her mother and daughter after being instructed to cross her legs.
“The slide caused [her] clothing to be painfully forced between her legs and for water to be violently forced inside her,” the documents read.
“She experienced immediate and severe pain internally and, as she stood up, blood began rushing from between her legs.”
It adds that “risk of injury as a consequence of water being forced inside a woman’s body” is “far greater than it is for a man”.
Disney has not responded to NBC News’s requests for comment.
Humunga Kowabunga is Typhoon Lagoon’s fastest and steepest waterslide. It sends people down a five-storey descent at speeds of up to 40mph, according to Disney’s website.
The theme park was built in 1989.
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