Boeing’s Starliner Delayed Again, NASA Crew’s Return Pushed to June 26

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Boeing’s Starliner capsule is facing further delays, with NASA and Boeing officials confirming that the spacecraft’s two-person crew will now return to Earth on June 26, rather than the originally planned date of June 14. The delay means that spaceflight veterans Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will spend at least 20 days on board the International Space Station (ISS) instead of the planned eight.

The decision to extend the mission is to allow engineers to further analyze data and resolve technical issues, including persistent helium leaks in the propulsion system and malfunctioning thrusters. Four of the five thrusters that failed during the spacecraft’s approach to the ISS have been resolved, but one thruster remains offline. Engineers have decided not to attempt to bring it back online, but the spacecraft still has 28 thrusters overall, so the malfunction will not affect its ability to undock from the ISS or return to Earth.

Engineers are also investigating a helium leak rate, which they believe will not affect the spacecraft’s ability to complete its remaining objectives. The thrusters and helium leaks are located in the service module, which burns up in the atmosphere during reentry, so engineers are taking extra time to understand the issues.

If engineers are satisfied that they have gathered sufficient data and that the spacecraft is fit for flight, Wilmore and Williams will undock from the ISS on June 25 and land at New Mexico’s White Sands Test Facility at 1:51 a.m. PT the following day. The next opportunity for landing would be on July 2.

Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei
Aria Alamalhodaei covers the space and defense industries. Previously, she covered the public utilities and the power grid for California Energy Markets. You can also find her work at MIT’s Undark Magazine, The Verge, and Discover Magazine. She received an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. Aria is based in Austin, Texas.

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