Boeing’s First Starliner Astronaut Mission Return Postponed To June 22

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 14, 2024 12:30
Boeing's First Starliner Astronaut Mission Return Postponed To June 22

Boeing's first crewed Starliner mission, designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), has faced another delay in its return schedule.

Initially planned for June 18, the mission has now been rescheduled for June 22. This delay extends the astronauts' stay on the ISS, providing more opportunities for critical tests and data collection, highlighting the complexities and challenges associated with space missions.

Mission Overview and Initial Delay

The Crew Flight Test (CFT) for Boeing's Starliner spacecraft launched on June 5, 2024, with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams aboard. The spacecraft successfully docked at the ISS the following day. The mission aimed to complete a comprehensive on-orbit shakedown of the spacecraft, with the initial plan to last about a week.

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However, the mission was first delayed to June 18 to allow ISS residents more time to prepare for and perform an extravehicular activity (EVA) initially scheduled for June 13. That EVA was later canceled due to "spacesuit discomfort" experienced by astronauts Tracy Dyson and Matt Dominick.

Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew Program, expressed the mission's flexibility: "We designed the CFT mission with the possibility of delays in mind, ensuring that we have enough margin and time on station to maximize the opportunity for all partners to learn."

Extended Stay and Additional Tests

With the latest delay, Wilmore and Williams will now spend an additional four days on the ISS, bringing their total stay to just over two weeks. During this extended period, the crew will conduct further checks on the Starliner, including a "hot-fire" test of seven of the spacecraft's eight aft thrusters and a review of hatch operations. They will also perform "safe haven" drills to prepare the capsule for emergency scenarios. These tests are crucial for validating Starliner's performance and ensuring its readiness for longer missions.

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Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, highlighted the benefits of the extended stay: "We are continuing to understand the capabilities of Starliner to prepare for the long-term goal of having it perform a six-month docked mission at the space station." He further explained that these additional tests provide invaluable data that is unique to the mission's current position and circumstances.

The delay in Starliner's return underscores the complexities and challenges associated with space missions. NASA and Boeing are using this extended timeframe to maximize the opportunity for additional testing and data collection, which is essential for future missions. The CFT mission was designed with potential delays in mind, ensuring that there is ample margin and time on station to accommodate unforeseen circumstances.

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Mark Nappi emphasized the importance of this opportunity: "We have an incredible opportunity to spend more time at station and perform more tests which provides invaluable data unique to our position. This mission was always about learning as much as we can to ensure the long-term success of the Starliner program."

NASA has scheduled a press briefing for June 18 to provide further details on the new departure date and review weather conditions for the June 22 landing target. The extended stay not only benefits the current mission but also sets the stage for the long-term goal of having Starliner perform extended missions on the ISS.

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Looking Ahead

As Boeing and NASA navigate these delays and extend the mission, the focus remains on ensuring the safety and success of the crew and spacecraft. The additional time on the ISS allows for more comprehensive testing, ultimately contributing to the robustness of the Starliner program. With each mission, Boeing moves closer to its goal of providing a reliable and safe means of crew transportation to the ISS, supporting NASA's broader objectives in space exploration.

The delay, while challenging, offers a unique opportunity to gather more data and refine the spacecraft's systems, paving the way for future missions. "Each additional day on the station allows us to gather more data and refine our systems, which will be crucial for the success of future missions," Nappi noted.

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As the June 22 return date approaches, both Boeing and NASA remain committed to leveraging this time to enhance the mission's success and contribute to the ongoing efforts in space exploration and technology development. The lessons learned and the data collected during this extended mission will be instrumental in advancing the capabilities of the Starliner and ensuring its readiness for future missions.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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1 comment on «Boeing’s First Starliner Astronaut Mission Return Postponed To June 22»

  • S Hart

    So nothing to do with 5 leaks then.

    Reply
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