Starliner’s Return Delayed Again: What’s Next for the Spacecraft?

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Crew Ship Approaches the International Space Station

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship approaches the International Space Station on May 20, 2022, on the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission before automatically docking to the Harmony module’s forward port. The orbiting lab was flying 268 miles above the south Pacific at the time of this photograph. Credit: NASA

NASA and Boeing have postponed the return of the Starliner crew from the ISS to June 22, allowing more time for departure preparations. Meanwhile, extensive testing on Starliner’s capabilities continues, including a ‘hot fire test’ of its thrusters.

NASA and Boeing are now targeting no earlier than Saturday, June 22, to return the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test mission from the International Space Station (ISS). The extra time allows the team to finalize departure planning and operations while the spacecraft remains cleared for crew emergency return scenarios within the flight rules.

NASA and Boeing leadership will discuss the details of the new return target, flight status, and weather considerations for landing during a pre-departure media teleconference at 12 p.m. EDT Tuesday, June 18. NASA will provide additional media teleconference details soon.

Enhancing Starliner’s Capabilities

“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,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The crew will perform additional hatch operations to better understand its handling, repeat some ‘safe haven’ testing and assess piloting using the forward window.”

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Docked to the Harmony Module

This view from a window on the cupola overlooks a portion of the International Space and shows the partially obscured Starliner spacecraft from Boeing docked to the Harmony module’s forward port. Credit: NASA

Thruster Performance Tests

NASA and Boeing teams also prepared plans for Starliner to fire seven of its eight aft-facing thrusters while docked to the station to evaluate thruster performance for the remainder of the mission. Known as a “hot fire test,” the process will see two bursts of the thrusters, totaling about a second, as part of a pathfinder process to evaluate how the spacecraft will perform during future operational missions after being docked to the space station for six months. The crew also will investigate cabin air temperature readings across the cabin to correlate to the life support system temperature measurements.

Extended Testing Opportunities

“We have an incredible opportunity to spend more time at station and perform more tests which provides invaluable data unique to our position,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager, Commercial Crew Program, Boeing. “As the integrated NASA and Boeing teams have said each step of the way, we have plenty of margin and time on station to maximize the opportunity for all partners to learn – including our crew.”

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Approaches the International Space Station

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on NASA’s Crew Flight Test approaches the International Space Station while orbiting 263 miles above Quebec, Canada, on June 6. Credit: NASA

Astronaut Activities and Objectives

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who are serving as Starliner’s crew for the mission, arrived at the International Space Station on June 6. They’ve completed numerous flight objectives required for NASA certification of Boeing’s transportation system for flights to the orbiting laboratory under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

Over the past three days, Wilmore and Williams have performed tasks as part of the space station team, including installing research equipment, maintaining the lab’s hardware, and helping station crewmembers Matt Dominick and Tracy Dyson prepare for a spacewalk. After NASA called off Thursday’s spacewalk, Williams worked to help the crew out of their spacesuits.

Spacecraft Return Preparations

Engineering teams continue to increase their understanding of previous observations from Starliner propulsion systems on the spacecraft’s service module.

Pending spacecraft return readiness and acceptable weather conditions, Starliner will undock from the space station for a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the southwestern United States.

5 Comments on "Starliner’s Return Delayed Again: What’s Next for the Spacecraft?"

  1. Just kill it, it is not fit for purpose.

  2. Rough’n’tumble.

  3. Nasa is now the propaganda spreader for boeing.. why aren’t they being honest?.. I know the blew billions of tax payer money on Boeing junk.. be honest.. it’s a failure

  4. Sell it to china.. let that hunk of junk kill.some.commies

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