NASA insists Boeing Starliner crew not “stranded” in space

by | Jun 28, 2024 | Science

The return to Earth of Boeing’s Starliner capsule is on indefinite hold pending results of new thruster tests and ongoing analysis of helium leaks that cropped up during the ship’s rendezvous with the International Space Station, NASA announced Friday.But agency officials insisted Starliner commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and co-pilot Sunita Williams are not “stranded” in space. A camera aboard the International Space Station captured a spectacular view of Boeing’s Starliner crew ferry ship as the two spacecraft sailed over North Africa, Egypt and the Middle East earlier in the ongoing test flight. The white drum-shaped service module, where the spacecraft’s main propulsion system is housed, is attached to the base of the gray cone-shaped crew capsule. / Credit: NASA”We don’t have a targeted (landing) date today,” Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, told reporters during a teleconference. “We’re not going to target a specific date until we get that testing completed.”So essentially, it’s complete the testing, complete the fault tree, bring that analysis into (the mission management team), and then have an agency-level review. And then we’ll lay out the rest of the plan from undock to landing. I think we’re on a good path.”The problem for NASA and Boeing is that the Starliner’s service module, which houses the helium lines, thrusters and other critical systems, is discarded before re-entry and burns up in the atmosphere.Engineers will not be able to study the hardware after the fact, and as a result, they want to collect as much data as possible before Wilmore and Williams head home.But the crew’s repeatedly extended stay at the space station as that analysis has continued has prompted some observers to say Wilmore and Williams are stranded in orbit, an impression that seems to have taken root in the absence of updates from NASA as the target landing date was repeatedly pushed back.Stich and Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner program manager, said that description is a mischaracterization.”It’s pretty painful to read the things that are out there,” Nappi said. “We’ve gotten a really good test flight…and it’s being viewed rather negatively. We’re not stuck on ISS. The crew is not in any danger, and there’s no increased risk when we decide to bring Suni and Butch back to Earth.”Stich added that he wants “to make it very clear that Butch and Suni are not stranded in space. Our plan is to continue to return them on Starliner and return them home at the right time. We’ll have a little bit more work to do to get there for the final return, but they’re safe on space station. Their spacecraft is working well, and they’re enjoying their tim …

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[mwai_chat context=”Let’s have a discussion about this article:nnThe return to Earth of Boeing’s Starliner capsule is on indefinite hold pending results of new thruster tests and ongoing analysis of helium leaks that cropped up during the ship’s rendezvous with the International Space Station, NASA announced Friday.But agency officials insisted Starliner commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and co-pilot Sunita Williams are not “stranded” in space. A camera aboard the International Space Station captured a spectacular view of Boeing’s Starliner crew ferry ship as the two spacecraft sailed over North Africa, Egypt and the Middle East earlier in the ongoing test flight. The white drum-shaped service module, where the spacecraft’s main propulsion system is housed, is attached to the base of the gray cone-shaped crew capsule. / Credit: NASA”We don’t have a targeted (landing) date today,” Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, told reporters during a teleconference. “We’re not going to target a specific date until we get that testing completed.”So essentially, it’s complete the testing, complete the fault tree, bring that analysis into (the mission management team), and then have an agency-level review. And then we’ll lay out the rest of the plan from undock to landing. I think we’re on a good path.”The problem for NASA and Boeing is that the Starliner’s service module, which houses the helium lines, thrusters and other critical systems, is discarded before re-entry and burns up in the atmosphere.Engineers will not be able to study the hardware after the fact, and as a result, they want to collect as much data as possible before Wilmore and Williams head home.But the crew’s repeatedly extended stay at the space station as that analysis has continued has prompted some observers to say Wilmore and Williams are stranded in orbit, an impression that seems to have taken root in the absence of updates from NASA as the target landing date was repeatedly pushed back.Stich and Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner program manager, said that description is a mischaracterization.”It’s pretty painful to read the things that are out there,” Nappi said. “We’ve gotten a really good test flight…and it’s being viewed rather negatively. We’re not stuck on ISS. The crew is not in any danger, and there’s no increased risk when we decide to bring Suni and Butch back to Earth.”Stich added that he wants “to make it very clear that Butch and Suni are not stranded in space. Our plan is to continue to return them on Starliner and return them home at the right time. We’ll have a little bit more work to do to get there for the final return, but they’re safe on space station. Their spacecraft is working well, and they’re enjoying their tim …nnDiscussion:nn” ai_name=”RocketNews AI: ” start_sentence=”Can I tell you more about this article?” text_input_placeholder=”Type ‘Yes'”]
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