NASA Updates Astronaut Assignments For Starliner Test Flight


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.

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Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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    • Can anyone describe what our armed services are doing other than adding to our national debt and fighting in other peoples’ wars? You can ask the same for a lot of groups.

      Astronauts are primarily engineers and scientists. I’d rather spend more money on them than on keeping our military larger than the next 3 countries combined.

  1. NASA has to push the Boeing Starliner project because Musk and SpaceX are now personna non grata with the Biden admin. Never underestimate the vindictiveness of the current administration. There are real questions regarding the readiness of the Starliner equipment, but they are trumped by current petty politics.

    • Exactly what evidence do you have that any of this has to do with anything from the Biden administration? The commercial crew program required Boeing to demonstrate a successful unmanned orbital flight, which they failed on the first attempt but did succeed on the second, and they have met all other requirements. And SpaceX’s unmanned flight also had minor issues which they corrected prior to the manned flight. I don’t see any “petty politics” coming in to play here.

  2. Check you glasses, Gary. I see PLENTY of “petty politics”, the vast majority of it is right here in the Comments section of an _aviation_news_ site. One would think that Kent M., Dale ., et al. would get tired of constantly having their political ignorance corrected, but apparently not. I guess that’s what separates a Troll from an Aviator, isn’t it?