Astronauts Stranded in Space at International Space Station as Boeing Starliner Faces Multiple Issues

Boeing Starliner spacecraft prepares to dock with the International Space Station for the

NASA astronauts have been left stranded in space as the Boeing Starliner spacecraft that they traveled to orbit on is facing several issues.

Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams are currently stuck aboard the International Space Station (ISS) after engineers discovered the Starliner was experiencing five thruster malfunctions and five helium leaks, according to Live Science. The astronauts were initially slated to return to Earth on June 13, however, NASA said on June 18, that they were shooting for a June 26 return date.

“We’ve learned that our helium system is not performing as designed,” Mark Nappi, the program manager for Boeing’s Starliner said. “Albeit manageable, it’s still not working like we designed it. So we’ve got to go figure that out.”

The issues with the Starliner were reportedly discovered by engineers during the 25-hour flight after the spacecraft had taken off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida this month.

As engineers from NASA and Boeing work together to “asses the vital hardware issues aboard the vessel,” the return module of the Starliner remains docked at the ISS’s utility hub, the Harmony module.

The Harmony module of the ISS “acts as an internal connecting port and passageway to international science labs and cargo spacecraft,” NASA’s website says. “Harmony is a utility hub, providing air, electrical power, water, and other systems essential to support life on the station.”

Due to the Harmony module only having a limited supply of fuel, the Starliner spacecraft can only stay docked for a timeframe of 45 days.

The outlet noted that Boeing “built the Starliner capsule as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program”:

The company built the Starliner capsule as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a partnership between the agency and private companies to ferry astronauts into low Earth orbit following the retirement of NASA’s space shuttles in 2011. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon also came from this initiative and has racked up 12 crewed flights since it began operating in 2020.

There have been several previous flight attempts with the Starliner, both uncrewed and with crew, according to the outlet.

In 2019, the Starliner ended up in the wrong orbit as the result of a software issue during an uncrewed test flight. Another test flight reportedly ended up being “held back” as the result of “issues with a fuel valve.”


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