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'Nicely done!' Boeing Starliner astronauts welcomed to ISS at last
'Nicely done!' Boeing Starliner astronauts welcomed to ISS at last
by Doug Cunningham
Washington DC (UPI) Jun 6, 2024

Boeing Starliner astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were welcomed aboard the International Space Station Thursday at 3:45 p.m. following a successful 1:34 p.m. EDT docking.

Williams floated into the space station first, joyously greeting the space station crew. Wilmore floated in shortly afterward.

The astronauts hugged the ISS crew as they entered from the Starliner spacecraft.

Boeing said in a statement on X, "Slow and steady. Ground controllers will carefully equalize and monitor Starliner's pressure to match the space station."

Boeing welcomed Wilmore and Williams to the ISS, congratulating them.

"Butch and Suni nicely done! Welcome back to the ISS!, " Boeing Space posted on X.

Wilmore replied, "Outstanding. Great place to be. We're looking forward to staying here for a couple of weeks and getting things done in Starliner that we need to get done. We're on station, ready to work."

There are two American-crewed spacecraft docked at ISS now -- SpaceX's Dragon was there when Starliner arrived.

The spacecraft docked within the second docking window Thursday. It experienced a thruster malfunction with the B1 A3 thruster, so it was shut down while others were used to control the spacecraft as it docked.

At about 10 meters away a planned hold was implemented to perform the final line-up for docking.

During the docking, both the ISS and Starliner were traveling at 17,000 mph. But the docking maneuvers were conducted very slowly, making it seem as though the ISS and spacecraft were suspended in space.

Throughout the docking process,the astronauts were in radio communication with ground crews at Starliner Mission Control & International Space Station Mission Control.

As the spacecraft docked, they also were in communication with the ISS.

An automated system on Starliner docked the spacecraft, but at times the astronauts took manual control.

At 1:06 p.m., darkness inhibited the visual camera images but Lidar and infrared cameras continued to capture data of the docking.

The docking approach was livestreamed on NASA+, NASA Television, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency's website.

NASA said the Starliner and crew will remain at the space station for about a week.

NASA said three new helium leaks were found in Starliner. A helium leak caused one of the several delays Starliner experienced before successfully launching the ISS mission.

"One of these was previously discussed before flight along with a management plan, and the other two are new since the spacecraft arrived in orbit," a NASA statement said. "Two of the affected helium valves have been closed and the spacecraft remains stable."

NASA said that to monitor and manage these leaks, the three helium manifolds have been isolated. They have all been reopened prior to a Starliner height adjust burn, called NHPC and all affected manifolds will stay open during docking operations.

The astronauts will spend about eight days at the ISS.

The Starliner crewed mission launched Wednesday from Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Two previous launch efforts were scrubbed.

When it launched ULA said in a statement that Wilmore and Williams' names "now join Glenn, Carpenter, Schirra and Cooper as American astronauts to launch into space atop Atlas rockets."

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