NASA and Boeing are adjusting the return to Earth of the Starliner Crew Flight Test spacecraft with agency astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams from the International Space Station. They haven’t decided on a date yet, but confirm it will only be after the 2 July 2024 spacewalk.

The return was scheduled to happen tomorrow (26 June), but has been moved to allow mission teams time to review propulsion system data.
“We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process,” says Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew Program. “We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking.

“Additionally, given the duration of the mission, it is appropriate for us to complete an agency-level review, similar to what was done ahead of the NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 return after two months on orbit, to document the agency’s formal acceptance on proceeding as planned.”

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft remains cleared for return in case of an emergency on the space station that required the crew to leave orbit and come back to Earth.

Mission managers are evaluating future return opportunities following the station’s a planned spacewalks on 2 July 2024.

The spacewalk planned for yesterday (24 June 2024) was cut short due to water leak in the service and cooling umbilical unit on one of the astronaut’s spacesuit. The crew members were not in any danger as result of the leak, but ended the walk at just 31 minutes.

“Starliner is performing well in orbit while docked to the space station,” says Stich. “We are strategically using the extra time to clear a path for some critical station activities while completing readiness for Butch and Suni’s return on Starliner and gaining valuable insight into the system upgrades we will want to make for post-certification missions.”

Wilmore and Williams remain integrated with the Expedition 71 crew, assisting with station operations as needed and completing add-on in-flight objectives for NASA certification of Starliner.

“The crew’s feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and they know that every bit of learning we do on the Crew Flight Test will improve and sharpen our experience for future crews,” says Mark Nappi, vice-president and program manager of Boeing’s Starliner Program.