July 23, 2024

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Boeing and NASA push back Starliner astronaut return to June 22, doubling mission length for spacecraft testing.

Boeing’s Starliner capsule “Calypso” will extend its stay at the International Space Station, doubling the mission length originally planned, NASA announced on Friday. This extended mission, part of Boeing’s crew flight test, involves comprehensive testing of the spacecraft while docked with the ISS. The mission marks Starliner’s first crewed flight, with Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams scheduled to pilot the spacecraft back to Earth next week.

Initially planned for a nine-day mission starting June 5, Calypso is now slated to return on June 22, extending the mission to at least 17 days to facilitate further spacecraft testing. NASA highlighted tests including hatch operations, thruster firings, and cabin air temperature checks, crucial for finalizing departure procedures.

Despite encountering challenges such as helium leaks in its propulsion system, which were deemed manageable, Starliner successfully docked with the ISS. Troubleshooting also addressed issues with its reaction control system thrusters. Boeing plans to conduct hot fire tests on selected thrusters before undocking, aiming to ensure optimal performance.

While delays and technical issues have affected Starliner’s trajectory compared to SpaceX’s Dragon, which has completed numerous crewed missions to the ISS, NASA continues to evaluate both for future crewed missions under its Commercial Crew Program.