Launch officials say the mission could launch as early as February, according to Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager.
Problems that officials identified during the Starliner’s unmanned test flight included outages with a few of the spacecraft’s thrusters that did not operate as intended and software problems. None of these issues had a significant impact on the test mission, however, and the craft was still able to complete its multi-day journey to the International Space Station and return safely to Earth. However, officials deemed these problems serious enough to require repairs before the crew was allowed to board the vehicle.
Despite its setbacks, NASA has sided with Boeing, which is one of two companies — the other being SpaceX — that the space agency tapped to build spacecraft worthy of astronauts after the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. While the space agency initially speculated that Boeing would , a partner of decades with NASA that will beat SpaceX on the launch pad, Boeing is now at least two years behind its relatively nascent rival.
NASA astronauts Barry ‘Butch’ Wilmore and Sunita Williams are set to be the first astronauts to fly aboard the Starliner next year.
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