NASA again delays return of Boeing Starliner carrying Sunita Williams to Earth

NASA again delays return of Boeing Starliner carrying Sunita Williams to Earth

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New Delhi: NASA has announced further delay in this. Boeing StarlinerReturn to Earth from the International Space Station first crew of astronautsThe agency said on Friday that more time was needed to assess technical problems encountered during the mission.
No new date has yet been set, leaving uncertainty as to when the two astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Sunita WilliamsBoeing's first crew will return from the mission.
According to NASA, “Mission managers are evaluating future return opportunities following two planned spacewalks to the station on June 24 and July 2.”
NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich highlighted the importance of taking time and following standard mission management team procedures. He said Starliner has been performing well while docked to the space station and the extra time will provide valuable insight into system upgrades for future missions.
Starliner Space ship problems to be faced
Crewed testing of the Starliner spacecraft, which has undergone two uncrewed test flights since 2019, has faced numerous challenges, including failures of its maneuvering thrusters, helium gas leaks and slow-moving propellant valves. Boeing has racked up $1.5 billion in cost overruns beyond its $4.5 billion NASA development contract.
NASA aims to establish Starliner as the second US spacecraft capable of ferrying astronauts to the ISS, alongside SpaceX's Crew Dragon, which has been the primary ride since 2020. However, the Starliner program has faced numerous challenges over the years, including software glitches, design problems and subcontractor disputes.
During Starliner’s approach to the space station on June 6, five thruster failures made the approach impossible, until Boeing implemented a fix by rewriting software and adjusting procedures that revived four thrusters and allowed the spacecraft to proceed with docking.
Returns remain the most complex
Undocking and returning to Earth represent the most complex phases of Starliner's test mission. NASA officials have expressed a desire to better understand the cause of the thruster failures, valve problem and helium leak before Starliner's return begins. Although only one thruster remains nonfunctional on the current flight, Boeing faced four thruster problems during the capsule's uncrewed return from space in 2022.
Flight rules established by Boeing and NASA require Starliner's maneuvering thrusters to provide at least “six degrees of freedom of control,” with each thruster having a backup. According to a NASA spokesperson, this could mean that at least 12 of the 28 thrusters, most of them backups, are necessary for safe flight.
The importance of Starliner to Boeing
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft has become the latest member of a special group of American-built vehicles designed to carry NASA spacecraft. AstronautIt joins the ranks of the iconic Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules from the early days of human spaceflight, the Space Shuttle, which served as NASA’s mainstay for three decades, and the more recently developed Crew Dragon from SpaceX.
The success of this mission is very important to Boeing, as the company has an agreement with NASA to operate an additional six crewed flights to the International Space Station. However, these future missions are dependent on Starliner receiving official certification from the space agency. By demonstrating the spacecraft's capabilities and reliability, Boeing aims to overcome obstacles and safety issues that have hampered its space program in recent years, ultimately restoring confidence in its brand and technical prowess.

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