Boeing leaves NASA astronauts stranded on ISS after capsule leaks emerge

Boeing's Starliner capsule, which transported two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station, was found to be leaking helium in five places.

2 minutes & 2 seconds read time

Boeing's Starliner capsule was delayed for years and then scrubbed from two launch attempts, only to transport two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and then leave them stranded.

Boeing's Starliner capsule

Boeing's Starliner capsule

It appears Boeing's airline fleet isn't the only product it manufactures that has problems, as its Starliner capsule was found to be leaking helium upon arrival at the ISS. More specifically, two helium leaks were detected right after the launch on June 5, and one leak was identified prior to the launch. NASA and Boeing both signed off on the leak discovered before launch, giving the go-ahead before the problem was fixed.

NASA and Boeing have now identified five sources of the helium leaks after it arrived at the ISS. Since the capsule's arrival, it has been under investigation, but the goal of the two NASA astronauts having a clear means of returning back to Earth hit a bump in the road, as NASA announced on Friday that it currently doesn't have any plans of a return journey via Starliner. Additionally, the return mission scheduled for Wednesday, June 26, has been canceled.

NASA explains in its blog post that neither of the NASA astronauts, nor the already-stationed crew aboard the ISS are pressed for time as there are plenty of supplies aboard the floating laboratory.

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

"We are letting the data drive our decision making relative to managing the small helium system leaks and thruster performance we observed during rendezvous and docking. Additionally, given the duration of the mission, it is appropriate for us to complete an agency-level review, similar to what was done ahead of the NASA's SpaceX Demo-2 return after two months on orbit, to document the agency's formal acceptance on proceeding as planned."

"We are strategically using the extra time to clear a path for some critical station activities while completing readiness for Butch and Suni's return on Starliner," he said, "and gaining valuable insight into the system upgrades we will want to make for post-certification missions."

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science, space, and artificial intelligence news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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