NASA reschedules Starliner crew’s return to Earth for July

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Boeing’s Starliner mission faces delays, astronauts to remain on ISS until July.

NEW YORK, June 23: NASA announced on Friday that the return of the Starliner crew to Earth has been rescheduled for July after facing several delays. The decision was made to avoid clashes with upcoming spacewalks scheduled at the International Space Station (ISS), the agency stated in a blog post.

The extended stay will provide astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams with additional time to review the spacecraft’s propulsion systems, NASA added. Wilmore and Williams have been aboard the ISS for nearly three weeks and were initially set to conduct a full assessment of the spacecraft while docked to the station.

However, mechanical issues and the necessity for further data collection compelled the delay. Boeing’s first crewed Starliner test flight, which experienced multiple postponements due to concerns such as helium system leaks, finally took off on June 5.

“We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich, emphasizing the cautious approach to addressing issues encountered during rendezvous and docking.

NASA plans to conduct an agency-level review of the mission, with details to be shared in a subsequent media briefing. Despite the delay, Wilmore and Williams have ample supplies on board, and the ISS schedule remains flexible until mid-August. The astronauts have been actively contributing to station maintenance, scientific research, and spacewalks.

Mark Nappi, Boeing’s vice president and Starliner program manager, highlighted the positive feedback from the crew and emphasized the importance of learning from the current mission to enhance future endeavors.

Mission managers are currently evaluating dates for subsequent return missions to the ISS following the completion of two planned spacewalks. If successful, Boeing will achieve its first crewed mission success for NASA, although it trails behind competitor SpaceX, which has completed 13 crewed missions thus far.

SpaceX is gearing up for consecutive Starlink satellite launches from Florida and California, with the former experiencing a delay following a T-0 abort on June 14.

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