NASA swaps launch dates for SpaceX Crew Dragon and Boeing Starliner ISS

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NASA has announced new launch dates for its 2023 astronaut missions to the International Space Station and Boeing’s first crewed mission has taken another two-month delay.

The struggling Starliner capsule won’t have another chance to launch with crew members until April 2023. That’s two months later than the previous launch date of February 2023.

Instead, the agency’s next SpaceX Crew Dragon ISS mission, Crew-6, is now available for launch in mid-February 2023 aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.

This mission, originally scheduled for spring 2023, will carry two NASA astronauts, an astronaut from the United Arab Emirates and a Russian cosmonaut to the space station for a stay of approximately six months.

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The agency said in a blog post that the decision to postpone the Starliner crew’s flight test “decongests traffic from spacecraft visiting the space station.” NASA also explained that it was still working with Boeing to resolve several remaining issues after the less-than-perfect unmanned OFT-2 test last May. More information beyond “a variety of verification efforts across multiple critical systems,” however, was not disclosed.

The Starliner experienced several propellant corrosion issues before an OFT-2 launch attempt and multiple propellant performance issues during flight test in May. Unfortunately, these thrusters were located on the Starliner’s service module which is discarded during reentry prior to landing.

In August, Boeing Starliner program manager Mark Nappi told reporters that Boeing teams had made sure “that same condition doesn’t exist.”

In the NASA blog, the agency said all crewed flight test hardware components, including the Starliner and the rocket it will launch on, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, are on the way. to be completed in early 2023.

The Starliner capsule that is to launch Boeing’s first astronaut crew is a repurposed capsule from the first unmanned orbital flight test in 2019 called “Calypso”.

Boeing recently completed the exterior renovation and heat shield installation. It will be mated to its service module later this year at Boeing’s facility at Kennedy Space Center. It was originally supposed to happen this month.

With each launch, Starliner’s crewed flight test mission will carry NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams to the ISS for approximately two weeks.

The goal, to certify Boeing’s Starliner human transport system for future long-duration ISS missions for NASA. The first operational mission will not have a scheduled launch date until the CFT is deemed a success.

For the latest information, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Jamie Groh is a space reporter for Florida Today. You can contact her at JGroh@floridatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.

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