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NASA Delays Boeing Starliner’s Return to Earth from ISS

NASA announced on Friday that the Boeing Starliner’s return to Earth from the International Space Station (ISS), initially scheduled for next week, has been delayed once again.

This latest postponement of the rescheduled June 26 return will allow additional time for a thorough review of the thruster malfunctions and helium leaks that caused the first delay.

Starliner’s first crewed mission to the ISS, originally planned to last about eight days, has been extended to a date yet to be determined.

The spacecraft launched from Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on June 5, following years of delays, safety concerns, and two aborted launch attempts that occurred with astronauts already strapped in and ready to go.

“NASA and Boeing leadership are adjusting the return to Earth of the Starliner Crew Flight Test spacecraft,” NASA stated in a blog post late Friday. “The move off Wednesday, June 26, deconflicts Starliner’s undocking and landing from a series of planned International Space Station spacewalks while allowing mission teams time to review propulsion system data.”

Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, said: “We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process. We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking.”

Stich added that Starliner, which is crewed by two astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, both former US Navy test pilots, is “performing well in orbit while docked to the space station.”

NASA noted that the crew is not in a hurry to leave the station as it is well stocked with supplies and the “station’s schedule is relatively open through mid-August.”

The initial docking with the ISS was delayed by more than an hour due to some of Starliner’s thrusters failing to activate for fine maneuvering. Prior to launch, a single helium leak was known to affect Starliner. Helium, although non-combustible, provides pressure to the propulsion system. Additional leaks emerged during the flight.

Source: AFP

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