Sunita Williams set to fly into space for a third time

Wednesday 29th May 2024 07:22 EDT

Houston: Boeing’s Starliner first crewed spacecraft to be piloted by Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is expected to be launched between June 1 and 5 after the flight was postponed earlier this month due to a technical snag. Williams, 58, will fly into space for the third time aboard the test flight.

A statement from NASA said: “Mission managers from NASA, Boeing and ULA (United Launch Alliance) continue to evaluate a path forward toward launching the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station. The teams are now working toward a launch opportunity at 12.25 pm on Saturday, June 1, with additional opportunities on Sunday, June 2, Wednesday, June 5, and Thursday, June 6.”

Work continues to assess Starliner performance and redundancy following the discovery of a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module, the statement said. It said teams were in the process of completing a follow-on propulsion system assessment to understand potential helium system impacts on some Starliner return scenarios.

Starliner will carry Williams and Butch Wilmore to the International Space Station, marking what could be a momentous and long-awaited victory for the beleaguered Boeing programme.

An attempt to launch the first crewed test flight for the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral in Florida was postponed on May 6 after a technical snag was discovered moments before the take-off.

NASA will also conduct a Delta-Agency Flight Test Readiness Review to discuss the work that was performed since the last CFT launch attempt on May 6 and to evaluate issue closure and flight rationale ahead of the next attempt as part of NASA’s process for assessing readiness, the statement said.

The statement said Williams and Butch Wilmore continued practising in Starliner simulators to prepare for flight, and the crew, which remains quarantined, will fly back to NASA’s Kennedy Space Centre in Florida closer to the new launch date.

The mission has been delayed for several years because of setbacks in the spacecraft’s development.

If it is successful, it will become the second private firm able to provide crew transport to and from the ISS, alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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