NASA has transferred two astronauts from Boeing’s first two crewed missions to next year’s SpaceX mission. The aerospace giant Starliner is rarely reassigned due to delayed development of the capsule.
Astronauts Nicole Aunapu and Josh Cassada will be the commander and pilot of SpaceX’s Crew 5 mission in the fall of 2022, the US space agency announced on Wednesday.
In August 2018, NASA assigned the pair the first Boeing crew to fly on the Starliner mission. Mann participated in the Starliner crew flight test, and Cassada participated in the first operational Starliner flight. However, after spending three years preparing to fly the Boeing capsule, the two astronauts were the first astronauts to be redeployed from one US spacecraft to another.
“We understand that as we continue to develop the Starliner spacecraft, we need to make adjustments so that current astronaut-class members can experience flight in the vehicle while in operation. Full decision from NASA. A Boeing spokesperson told CNBC.” “We continue to protect and support flying astronauts,” it said in a statement.
NASA has three astronauts, Butch Wilmore, Mike Fincke and Snee Williams, still assigned to the Boeing Starliner crew flight test. The agency says it will make more allocations for Boeing missions “in the future.”
Ars Technica was the first to report that Mann and Cassada are likely to leave Starliner.
Boeing planned to fly the Starliner capsule on an unmanned OFT-2 mission in August, but the test flight was delayed due to multiple spacecraft propulsion valves. This represents the resumption of Boeing’s unmanned flight tests in December 2019.
The initial flight test was cut short because the spacecraft’s flight control system failed and the capsule did not reach the International Space Station as planned.
Boeing is working with its supplier Aerojet Rocketdyne to resolve valve issues, so the delayed OFT-2 mission does not yet have a new target launch date.
NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager Steve Stitch told a press conference that OFT-2 has “no real opportunity” to fly this year and that it’s “too early to narrow down the date” to 2022. ..
“Now we really need to get to the root cause of the valve problem,” Stitch said.
Boeing covered the cost of the OFT-2, securing $410 million shortly after the first flight test. The company developed Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and won nearly $5 billion in contracts to build the capsules. SpaceX was awarded about $3.1 billion to develop the Crew Dragon capsule under the same NASA program and launch the first astronauts in May 2020.