Astronauts from Boeing's Starliner were supposed to be in space for 8 days. Now they're stuck there with no scheduled return date.

Astronauts from Boeing's Starliner were supposed to be in space for 8 days. Now they're stuck there with no scheduled return date.
  • Boeing's Starliner is stuck at the International Space Station — for now.

  • The two astronauts on board arrived at the ISS on June 6 and were scheduled to spend eight days in space.

  • NASA and Boeing announced on Friday that their return date had been pushed back again.

The return of two astronauts on board Boeing's first crewed commercial spacecraft has been delayed — again.

The NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams arrived at the International Space Station on June 6 after a series of delays that postponed the craft's launch by a month.

The astronauts were originally supposed to stay docked in space for eight to 10 days, according to a June 6 statement from Boeing.

But 12 days after the crew arrived at the ISS, Boeing announced that their return to White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico had been delayed to June 26.

On Friday, the aviation company said the return was delayed again to assess issues on board and to make time for two space walks. The delay came after five helium leaks were detected on board the spacecraft. Helium supports the spacecraft's reaction control system thrusters, allowing them to fire.

"Mission managers are evaluating future return opportunities following the station's two planned spacewalks on Monday, June 24, and Tuesday, July 2," Boeing said in its statement.

Boeing also hasn't provided a new scheduled date for the astronauts' return.

"We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process," Steve Stich, the manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said in the statement.

Boeing's spokesperson told BI in an email that the mission was extended to collect more data on the helium systems and thrusters.

"The reaction control thruster and helium leaks in the propulsion system are all located on the spacecraft's service module. When the crew departs the ISS and deorbits, the service module is discarded and burns up in the atmosphere on reentry," the spokesperson said.

He added: "Thus, the helium systems and thrusters will not return to earth for failure analysis so Boeing and NASA have extended the mission in order to collect more data."

But the statement on the company's website said the crew was "not pressed for time to leave the station," as there were "plenty of supplies in orbit."

The voyage to the ISS isn't Wilmore's or Williams' first time in space.

Williams, who was selected to be an astronaut by NASA in 1998, had spent a total of 322 days in space before the Starliner project. And Wilmore, who's been a NASA astronaut since 2000, logged 178 days in space before the Starliner launch.

This is the first instance of Boeing sending up a crewed spacecraft in an attempt to break into the commercial human-spaceflight business. But the company now lags behind Elon Musk's SpaceX, which has been sending astronauts to space since 2020.

Boeing and SpaceX were the two American companies selected by NASA in 2014 to explore commercial space transport.

Preceding the Starliner's launch, Musk pointedly said on X in May that Boeing was weighed down by "too many non-technical managers."

Back on earth, Boeing has also been plagued by plane issues in recent months. In January, a door plug came off a Boeing 737 Max 9 Alaska Airlines jet at 16,000 feet, resulting in a gaping hole in the plane.

Several Boeing whistleblowers have since come forward with bombshell testimonies alleging that the company cut corners with quality control.

NASA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment from Business Insider made outside normal working hours.

June 28, 2:22 a.m. — This story has been edited to reflect comments from Boeing's spokesperson.

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