Boeing Failure Leaves Astronauts Stuck In Space

( – Astronauts who were scheduled to leave the International Space Station on Boeing’s Starliner are stuck while the aerospace manufacturer addresses problems that have arisen since the launch of the spacecraft. The company ominously warned earlier in June that things might not proceed “perfectly”, and the difficulties have not helped the public image of the company that has been plagued with a series of embarrassing safety issues.

The anticipated journey to the ISS, which was Boeing’s first flight into space carrying NASA astronauts, faced several delays as the company addressed multiple technical issues. Starliner mission teams stated in May that a flange linked to a single reaction control system thruster was causing a helium leak. When assessing the leak, the teams also discovered a design flaw in the spacecraft’s thrusters. The flaw meant that the Starliner lacked a backup method of safely returning to Earth in the event certain thrusters malfunctioned after its departure from the Earth’s orbit.

The Starliner’s return to Earth will likely be delayed for weeks while tests are carried out. Steve Stich, the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew, clarified that the spacecraft is able to return home in the event of an emergency and that the astronauts are not “stranded” on the space station.

On June 26 the six astronauts aboard the ISS had to take cover and prepare for a possible emergency departure when a Russian satellite disintegrated into almost 200 pieces. It is not known what exactly caused the P1 Russian Earth observation satellite to break up. Russia declared the satellite dead in 2022.

Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, NASA astronauts who reached the ISS on the Starliner, boarded Boeing’s spacecraft to prepare for a possible emergency departure, and left the Starliner approximately an hour later to carry on with their work on the station.

After planning to stay aboard the ISS for eight days, the astronauts’ departure date has been indefinitely extended until tests are completed and the issues with the Starliner are solved. Despite the ongoing tests, Boeing’s spacecraft is cleared to return home at any time if it needs to. Alternatively, SpaceX could send a spacecraft to the ISS to ferry the two NASA astronauts back to Earth, but such measures would result in further embarrassment for Boeing.

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