NASA Delays Starliner Return to Address Propulsion Issues

NASA has announced an indefinite delay for the return of the Starliner spacecraft, initially scheduled for June 26, to review propulsion system data. The spacecraft, developed by Boeing, was set to bring NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams back to Earth.

The new tentative return date is no earlier than July 4. The spacecraft is only rated for a 45-day stay, with the clock starting on June 6. Photo from Samantha Cristoforetti/ NASA

The delay follows extensive meetings involving senior NASA officials, including Associate Administrator Jim Free, to assess the spacecraft’s readiness. The Crew Flight Test, launched on June 5 atop an Atlas V rocket, had its return date postponed multiple times due to ongoing data reviews.

NASA’s update cited the need for additional time to address issues with the vehicle’s helium system and thruster performance. “We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Recent meetings revealed two significant problems: five helium system leaks and the failure of five reaction-control system thrusters. These issues prompted NASA to delay the return date, originally set for June 26, after a previous target of June 14 was missed.