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NASA reassigns astronauts from delayed Boeing Starliner to SpaceX

Written by News Sateek

Boeing’s Starliner capsule sits on an Atlas V rocket on the launchpad ahead of the launch of the OFT-2 mission.

United Launch Alliance

NASA transferred a pair of astronauts from Boeing’s first two crewed missions to the SpaceX mission next year, in a rare re-evaluation as the aerospace giant’s Starliner capsules are delaying development.

Astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will be the commander and pilot, respectively, of SpaceX’s Crew-5 mission in the fall of 2022, the US space agency announced on Wednesday.

NASA assigned the pair in August 2018 to fly on Boeing’s first crewed Starliner mission – Man on the Starliner Crew Flight Test and Cassada on the first operational Starliner flight. But after spending three years preparing to fly Boeing’s capsule, the two astronauts are the first to be reassigned from one American spacecraft to another.

“We understand that current astronaut class members need to make adjustments to gain flight experience on an operational vehicle as development of the Starliner spacecraft continues. We fully support NASA’s decisions and We are committed to the safety of passengers who will fly first on our vehicle,” a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.

NASA still has three astronauts on hand for flight testing Boeing’s Starliner crew: Butch Wilmore, Mike Fincke and Suni Williams. The agency says it will do more work for Boeing missions “in the future.”

Ars Technica previously reported that Mann and Cassada are likely to move away from Starliner.

Boeing had planned to fly the Starliner capsule on the uncrewed OFT-2 mission in August, but issues with several of the spacecraft’s propulsion valves have delayed the test flight – a re-representation of a flight test without Boeing in December 2019. does.

The original flight test was cut short when the spacecraft’s flight control system failed and the capsule did not reach the International Space Station as planned.

The delayed OFT-2 mission has no new target launch date yet, as Boeing works with supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne to address valve problems.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stich told reporters during a press conference that “there’s really no opportunity” for OFT-2 to fly this year, and it’s too early to “narrow on the date” for 2022. .

“Right now we really need to get to the root cause of the Valve issue,” Stitch said.

Boeing is covering the cost of the OFT-2, setting aside $410 million shortly after the first flight test. The company developed Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which won contracts worth about $5 billion to build the capsule. SpaceX was awarded about $3.1 billion to develop its Crew Dragon capsule under the same NASA program, and launched its first astronauts in May 2020.

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