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    11 month ago

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    Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft was set to mark its crowning achievement this month: Ferrying two NASA astronauts on a round trip to the International Space Station, proving the long-delayed and over-budget capsule is up for the task.

    But the two veteran astronauts piloting this test flight are now in a tentative position — extending their stay aboard the space station for a second time while engineers on the ground scramble to learn more about issues that plagued the first leg of their journey.

    Williams and Wilmore will now return no earlier than June 26, NASA announced Tuesday, stretching their mission to at least 20 days as engineers race to gain a better understanding of the spacecraft’s problems while it’s safely attached to the space station.

    Officials have said there is no reason to believe Starliner won’t be able to bring the astronauts back home, though “we really want to work through the remainder of the data,” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, at a Tuesday news conference.

    Michael Lembeck, an aerospace engineering associate professor of practice at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign who was a consultant for Boeing’s spaceflight division from 2009 to 2014, told CNN that it would be difficult to determine whether additional ground tests may have caught the thruster issues at hand.

    Boeing executives have repeatedly sought to make clear that the Starliner program operates independently from the company’s other units — including the commercial aircraft division that has been at the center of scandals for years.


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