Saturday, July 2, 2022

NASA updates astronaut assignment for Starliner test flight

SUNY Williams and Butch Wilmore will fly in the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission before the end of this year.

credit: NASA/Joel Kausky

NASA will take two astronaut test pilots aboard the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work on Earth for nearly two weeks.

CFT Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who was assigned to the key crew by NASA in October 2020, will join NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will serve as the pilot. Williams previously served as a backup test pilot for CFT, while serving as the commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission. As CFT pilot, Williams replaces NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who was originally assigned to the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

Based on current space station resources and scheduling needs, a short duration mission with two astronaut test pilots is sufficient for CFT to meet all NASA and Boeing test objectives, including Starliner’s operational maneuvers to and from the space station. Includes demonstration of the ability to fly missions safely. , To protect against unforeseen incidents with crew transportation to the station, NASA may extend the duration of the CFT dock to six months and add an additional astronaut later if needed.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who was previously assigned by the agency as Joint Operations Commander for CFT, will now train as a backup spacecraft test pilot and remain eligible for assignments for future missions. The team will continue to benefit from Finke’s expertise as he maintains his position as Flight Test Lead, a key role in Starliner certification.

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Reid Wiseman, chief of the Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said: “Mike Fincke has dedicated the last nine years of his career to these first Boeing missions and SUNY the last seven. Butch has served as spacecraft commander since 2020. We’ve done an amazing job leading the team as you .. It was great to see Starliner’s successful trip to the International Space Station during the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission last month. We’re all excited to have Butch and Sonny. Looking forward to seeing you as they fly the first crewed Starliner mission.”

Wilmore, Williams and Fincke have each flown on the space station before as long-duration crew members.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps prepares for an upcoming long-duration mission aboard Starliner-1. NASA has also identified backup flight opportunities for Apes on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for additional scheduling and resource flexibility. Apes has begun cross-training on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to prepare for this possibility.

In the meantime, NASA and Boeing are continuing to review OFT-2 data, assessing opportunities for future CFT launches. Following the successful completion of the OFT-2 mission, the Starliner Crew Module is returned to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will undergo system checkout and vehicle inspection. The Starliner team is in the process of providing initial test flight data to NASA and jointly determining further work ahead of a crewed flight. These engineering and program reviews are expected to continue for several weeks, culminating in a launch schedule evaluation in late July based on spacecraft readiness, space station scheduling requirements and Eastern Range availability.

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Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said: “Starliner and Atlas V performed well during all phases of OFT-2, and we are now taking a systematic look at each system to determine what happens next. need to be upgraded or improved. CFT, as we do with every other crewed flight. Additionally, Butch, Suni and Mike have been instrumental in the development of Starliner on the path to a second space station crew transport system .

For the crewed flight test, Boeing’s Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

After a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying systems for the Starliner spacecraft and crew missions to the space station. Regular, long-duration commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue critical research and technology investigations taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with the agency’s Artemis mission, which includes landing the first woman and the first person of color on the lunar surface.

Nation World News Desk
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