NASA selects new date for Starliner’s crewed return

Boeing Space's Starliner docked at the International Space Station in June 2024.
The Starliner spacecraft is shown docked to the Harmony module’s forward port at the International Space Station, 263 miles above the Mediterranean Sea. NASA

Boeing Space’s Starliner crew capsule is now expected to depart the International Space Station (ISS) on Tuesday, June 25, NASA has said.

Starliner, on its first crewed mission, delivered NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the ISS on June 6 after launching atop a ULA Atlas V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida the previous day.

The Starliner and its two crew members were only supposed to stay at the ISS for about a week, but it was later decided to extend the mission to June 22 to conduct engine tests to evaluate the performance of the Starliner’s reaction control thrusters after some of them exhibited issues during the spacecraft’s final approach to the ISS when it arrived there earlier this month. Those tests were carried out over the weekend and mission teams supporting the Starliner flight will continue to review the resulting data.

In all, five of the Starliner’s 28 reaction control thrusters failed on final approach, though four of them eventually began working again. The reaction control thrusters will play a vital role during the Starliner’s reentry into Earth’s atmosphere by helping to maintain proper orientation of the crew capsule.

NASA has now decided to keep the Starliner at the orbital outpost for several more days and is targeting no earlier than 10:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday, June 25, for the undocking of the Starliner spacecraft.

Assuming NASA sticks to its latest departure schedule, Williams and Wilmore will land at about 4:51 a.m. ET on Wednesday, June 26, in the desert grounds of White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. The homecoming will mark the first time an American capsule has touched down on land with astronauts aboard, with previous landings having taken place on water.

This is the second time for the Starliner to rendezvous with the space station, though its first visit, in 2022, was without any astronauts on board.

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