NASA astronauts to fly to International Space Station on Boeing Starliner test mission

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After the successful completion of OFT-2, which saw an uncrewed Boeing Starliner spacecraft delivering supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA will be sending two of its astronauts aboard the Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the ISS where they will live and work for about two weeks.

NASA astronaut Sunita “Suni” L. Williams will serve as a pilot and will be joined by CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore. Williams was previously the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s post-certification mission. Williams takes the place of NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who was originally assigned the mission in 2018. NASA had reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.

A short-duration mission with two astronaut pilots is sufficient to meet all NASA and Boeing test objectives for CFT, based upon current space station resources and scheduling needs. The objectives include demonstrating Starliner’s ability to safely fly operational crewed missions to and from the space station. NASA may extend the CFT docked period duration up to six months and add an additional astronaut later if needed.

Formerly assigned as the joint Operations Commander for CFT, NASA astronaut Mike Fincke will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot and will remain eligible for assignment to a future mission. According to the space agency, Fincke’s unique expertise will benefit the team as he retains his position as a flight test lead.

“Mike Fincke has dedicated the last nine years of his career to these first Boeing missions and Suni the last seven. Butch has done a marvellous job leading the team as the spacecraft commander since 2020. It was great to see Starliner’s successful journey to the International Space Station during the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission last month. We are all looking forward to cheering on Butch and Suni as they fly the first crewed Starliner mission,” said Reid Wiseman, chief, Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, in a press statement.

All three astronauts have each flown previously as long-duration crew members aboard the space station. Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida for the crewed flight test.

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