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NASA and Boeing Evaluate Starliner Upon Arriving the ISS

Credit: NASA

Ibadan, 13 June 2024. – NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams since getting to the International Space Station (ISS) have been testing Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. The testing is part of the data collection on the Starliner system for certification by NASA for regular crewed missions to the orbital complex. Along with teams on the ground, the astronauts are stepping through numerous flight objectives following Starliner’s arrival.

The teams are currently assessing what impacts if any, five small leaks in the service module helium manifolds would have on the remainder of the mission. However, engineers evaluated the helium supply based on current leak rates and determined that Starliner has plenty of margin to support the return trip from the ISS. Only seven hours of free-flight time is necessary to perform a normal end-of-mission, and Starliner has enough helium left in its tanks to support 70 hours of free-flight activity following undocking. Furthermore, while Starliner is docked, all the manifolds stay closed per normal mission operations preventing further helium loss from the tanks.

Meanwhile, ground teams continue to assess and monitor Starliner’s performance and plan for the return of the mission no earlier than Tuesday, June 18, pending weather and spacecraft readiness. Likewise, Mission managers are continuing to work through the return plan, which includes assessments of flight rationale, fault tolerance, and potential operational mitigations for the remainder of the flight. With launch and docking already out of the way, the last remaining dynamic phase of the mission will come as Starliner undocks from the orbiting laboratory and adjusts its orbit to move away from the space station.

The spacecraft, with Wilmore and Williams aboard, will perform a deorbit burn before entering the atmosphere and landing in the southwestern United States under parachutes and landing airbags to complete the flight.

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