NASA Transfers Boeing Astronauts to SpaceX Amid Starliner Delays
(Bloomberg) -- NASA is reassigning two astronauts from training on a Boeing Co. vehicle to SpaceX because of persistent, years-long delays in the development of Boeing’s Starliner crew-transport vehicle.
Astronauts Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will transfer from the Starliner to launch aboard NASA’s Crew-5 mission on a SpaceX Dragon, which is scheduled to fly late next year, the agency said Wednesday.
“NASA decided it was important to make these reassignments to allow Boeing time to complete the development of Starliner while continuing plans for astronauts to gain spaceflight experience for the future needs of the agency’s missions,” according to a blog post.
The agency remains confident that Boeing can resolve issues plaguing the Starliner vehicle and expects the company will be ready for an unmanned test flight in early 2022, said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, during a media briefing Wednesday.
NASA has hired Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, although Boeing has not yet completed a successful test flight and its Starliner vehicle is mired in technical difficulties.
The company scrubbed a planned launch without crew in August after finding valve glitches in the Starliner’s propulsion system. Boeing has since been troubleshooting the causes of that issue and hasn’t announced its next target flight date.
Boeing said in a statement that it understands NASA’s needs to adjust its crews’ flights plans. “We fully support NASA’s decisions and remain committed to putting the safety of the astronauts who will fly on our vehicle first,” the company said.
SpaceX plans to launch its third rotation of astronauts for NASA on Oct. 30.
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