Technical failures delay astronauts’ return to Earth – DW – 06/24/2024

Technical failures delay astronauts’ return to Earth – DW – 06/24/2024
Technical failures delay astronauts’ return to Earth – DW – 06/24/2024

Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, two NASA astronauts on Boeing’s Starliner mission, have been forced to postpone their return to Earth for the third time after engineers discovered several problems with the spacecraft.

The astronauts, who are safe on the International Space Station (ISS), had rescheduled their return to Earth for Wednesday, June 26, but the space agency reported that the return will occur later, probably in July.

According to a statement released by NASA the delay will allow more time to review the thruster malfunctions and helium leaks that caused the first delay.

The first manned mission of the Starliner, which took off on June 5 from Florida (USA), was initially scheduled to last only eight days. Prior to that, Starliner had had to deal with years of delays and safety issues. It even had to cancel two launches in the past when the astronauts were ready to take off.

More time to make adjustments

“NASA and Boeing management are fine-tuning the return to Earth of the Starliner Crew Flight Test spacecraft,” the agency said.

Likewise, NASA Commercial Crew program manager Steve Stich stated: “We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process.”

“We are letting data drive our decision-making regarding management of the small helium system leaks and thruster performance that we observe during rendezvous and docking,” he added.

The astronauts are safe

According to Stitch, both Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, both former US Navy test pilots, are safe, as the Starliner spacecraft “works well in orbit while docked with the space station.”

According to NASA, the crew is in no hurry to leave the station because it is well stocked with supplies and “the station schedule is relatively open until mid-August.”

What kind of failures did the Starliner have?

Initial docking to the ISS was delayed more than an hour after some of the Starliner’s thrusters initially failed.

It was known that there was a helium leak affecting the Starliner before launch. Although it is not fuel, helium provides pressure to the propulsion system. However, other leaks were reported during the flight.

JU (efe, afp)

 
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