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NASA and Boeing Advance Starliner Tests with Crew at Space Station
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NASA and Boeing Advance Starliner Tests with Crew at Space Station
by Clarence Oxford
Los Angeles CA (SPX) Jun 11, 2024

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are testing Boeing's Starliner spacecraft at the International Space Station. This mission aims to collect data for NASA certification of the Starliner for regular crewed missions to the station.

As part of the Boeing Crew Flight Test, Wilmore and Williams, with ground teams, are completing various objectives since Starliner arrived at the station on June 6. These include:

+ Powering down and up the spacecraft to test minimal power mode during operational missions.

+ Conducting "safe haven" checks to ensure the spacecraft can support a crew with its own air and consumables during an emergency.

+ Performing a habitability study with astronauts Tracy Dyson and Matthew Dominick to evaluate seating positions and air circulation for a four-person crew.

+ Evaluating spacesuit and seat-fits, as well as checking the service module's batteries.

Ground teams are also monitoring Starliner's performance and planning for its return on June 18, pending weather and spacecraft readiness. Starliner is cleared for crew emergency return scenarios from the station according to flight rules.

"Butch and Suni are doing great aboard station as ground teams continue digging into the details of Starliner's on-orbit, rendezvous, and docked performance," said Steve Stich, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. "We expected to do a lot of valuable learning on this test flight, and I am extremely proud of how the NASA and Boeing teams are working together to ensure we can safely execute the return portion of the mission."

One of Starliner's reaction control system (RCS) thrusters remains de-selected as teams evaluate its performance. Ground teams plan to fire all 28 RCS thrusters after undocking to collect additional data. Engineers are also assessing five small leaks in the service module helium manifolds and evaluating an RCS oxidizer isolation valve that is not properly closed. Despite these issues, the spacecraft has sufficient margin to support the return trip.

Mission managers are continuing to work on the return plan, including assessments of flight rationale, fault tolerance, and potential operational mitigations. NASA and Boeing will hold a pre-departure media teleconference to provide updates before Starliner undocks from the station.

With launch and docking completed, the last dynamic phase of the mission will occur when Starliner undocks, adjusts its orbit, performs a deorbit burn, reenters the atmosphere, and lands in the southwestern United States under parachutes and airbags.

Spacewalk Nears as Starliner Crew Begins Extended Stay
The Expedition 71 crew is preparing for a spacewalk while two Commercial Crew astronauts spend additional days on the International Space Station. They continued advanced space research and conducted health exams.

On June 7, Expedition crew members installed a spare pump carried by Starliner for the urine processing assembly, which is functioning properly.

NASA Flight Engineers Tracy C. Dyson and Matthew Dominick are preparing for the first of three planned spacewalks for science and maintenance on the station. The spacewalkers will retrieve faulty communications hardware and swab station surfaces for microorganisms.

Mission managers will discuss the upcoming spacewalk during a news conference at 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Live coverage will air on NASA's various platforms.

NASA Flight Engineer Mike Barratt assisted Dominick with a spacesuit fit check. In the afternoon, the spacewalkers joined Barratt and NASA Flight Engineer Jeanette Epps to review Canadarm2 procedures necessary to retrieve the radio gear.

Earlier, Epps measured sound levels aboard the station, tested lab water for microbes, and conducted a hearing exam. Dyson and cosmonaut Nikolai Chub tested their visual acuity with a standard eye chart.

Wilmore and Williams, veteran NASA astronauts, learned on Sunday they will remain in orbit until June 18. This extension allows more time to check Starliner's systems and frees up the Expedition crew for spacewalk preparations.

Wilmore and Williams conducted health checks and worked on computer maintenance and space fire investigation hardware installation.

In the Roscosmos segment, Chub transferred water from the Progress 88 resupply ship to tanks in the Zvezda service module. Flight Engineer Alexander Grebenkin cleaned vents and air ducts and checked lighting systems in various modules. Station commander Oleg Kononenko studied plasma physics and explored spacecraft and robotic piloting techniques.

Related Links
Commercial Crew Program
Starliner at Boeing
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Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko on Wednesday literally set an out-of-this-world record when he became the first human to spend a total of 1,000 days in space. "Today, at 00:00:20 Moscow time, Roscosmos state corporation cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, who currently works at the International Space Station, has booked a record of 1,000 days for the first time in the world in terms of total spaceflight duration," Roscosmos officials said in a prepared statement. Kononenko tallied his time in sp ... read more

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