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NASA and Boeing say they have the “luxury of time” to troubleshoot the new Starliner capsule

In this photo provided by NASA, Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Butch Wilmore, left, and Suni Williams pose for a portrait inside the vestibule between the forward port on the International Space Station's Harmony module and Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on June 13, 2024. (NASA via AP)
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In this photo provided by NASA, Boeing Crew Flight Test astronauts Butch Wilmore, left, and Suni Williams pose for a portrait inside the vestibule between the forward port on the International Space Station's Harmony module and Boeing's Starliner spacecraft on June 13, 2024. (NASA via AP)

NASA and Boeing continue to try to reassure the press and the public on the new Starliner space capsule. The vehicle was boosted to orbit aboard an Atlas five rocket built in Alabama in early June. The spacecraft has been docked at the International Space Station since then. NASA says it has the luxury of time to check out problematic jet thrusters on Starliner. Steve Stitch is the agency’s Commercial Crew Program Manager. He says engineers are taking their time.

“I think what we really want to do is, since it's a new new vehicle, new spacecraft, we want to take A little more time to understand the thruster performance, in particular on the on the crude flight test it's had, these thrusters have had more pulses than we've had in the past,” he said.

Press accounts of the Starliner mission have included reports of the astronauts being stranded aboard the space station, and how Boeing’s commercial spacecraft rival SpaceX is being asked to prepare a rescue mission for crew members Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore. NASA says none of these stories are accurate. Steve Stitch says the agency and Boeing need to take ownership of some of the miscommunication that led reporters to write these stories.

“I think we probably need to be doing a little bit more frequent interaction with the media to keep you up to make sure that the media doesn't take off in a direction that because of a lack of data provided by NASA and Boeing,” he said.

Two NASA astronauts and a crew member from Canada are training for the next Starliner mission, which will also ride an Alabama Atlas Five to orbit. Click below to listen again to Alabama Public Radio’s ongoing coverage of the Starliner mission. That includes excerpts from a 1987 interview with the late astronaut John Glenn, the first person to ride an Atlas type rocket to orbit in 1962.

Pat Duggins is news director for Alabama Public Radio.
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