Starliner Might Return as Early as End of July: NASA


Two astronauts have been stuck in the capsule as thruster malfunctions and helium leaks delays their return.

On Wednesday, NASA and Boeing officials said that Starliner might return as early as the end of this month from the International Space Station (ISS), pending ground testing results.


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NASA’s commercial crew program director Steve Stich said that an “end of July” return for Starliner is “optimistically” based on the ongoing testing of the propulsion system.

Boeing’s Starliner docked at the ISS on June 6 after carrying its first crew — two NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams — to orbit. The mission was supposed to last eight days, but over a month on, two astronauts still have been stuck in the capsule as thruster malfunctions and helium leaks delayed their return.

NASA and Boeing are conducting ground tests to duplicate the Starliner’s thruster problems at a lab in New Mexico to determine what has gone wrong before clearing the spacecraft to return.

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Stich said the goal is to get two astronauts back before SpaceX delivers a fresh crew in mid-August, but that, too, could change. “The teams are checking, but they are confident they have the margin of time on the batteries they need for a mid-August return,” he noted.

The official acknowledged that NASA and Boeing have a contingency plan for Starliner, which would be SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, to bring back two astronauts from orbit.

But Stich stressed that the first option is to return Butch and Suni on Starliner. “We don’t see any reason” currently to turn to other transportation options to bring back the astronauts, he added.

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