NASA has assigned astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams to its Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Wilmore will serve as mission commander and Williams as pilot with Williams taking the place of Nicole Mann, who was reassigned to the SpaceX Crew-5 mission last year. Mike Fincke, who was previously assigned as the Joint Operations Commander for CFT, will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot for the mission.
As previously reported by AVweb, Starliner completed its first uncrewed mission to the ISS, Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), last month. During the mission, Starliner encountered a few snags including a stuck docking mechanism, two thrusters that didn’t fire as expected and a problem with the cooling system. OFT-2, which became necessary after Starliner experienced software problems during its first orbital flight test (OFT-1) in December 2019, also faced launch delays due to an oxidizer isolation valve issue on the vehicle’s service module propulsion system.
“Starliner and the Atlas V performed well during all phases of OFT-2, and now we are taking a methodical look at each system to determine what needs to be upgraded or improved ahead of CFT, just as we do with every other crewed flight,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich. “Additionally, Butch, Suni, and Mike have been instrumental in the development of Starliner on the path to having a second space station crew transportation system.”
According to NASA, the agency and Boeing are continuing to conduct OFT-2 data reviews along with assessing CFT launch opportunities. Wilmore and Williams are expected to spend approximately two weeks onboard the ISS during the mission. If CFT is completed successfully, NASA says it will begin the final process of certifying Starliner for regular crew missions to the ISS.