Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams and NASA’s Barry “Butch” Wilmore will fly on Boeing Crew Flight Test, Starliner’s first crewed mission to the International Space Station, according to the US space agency.
Williams will be the pilot and Wilmore will command the mission, the US space agency announced in a report on 16 June. The crew will live and work at the International Space Station for about two weeks.
The launch date is yet to be determined. Previously, Williams was the backup test pilot for CFT and assigned as the commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission.
In her current role as the Crew Flight Test pilot, Williams will be replacing NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who was originally assigned to the mission in 2018. Mann was later reassigned to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.
A short duration mission with two astronaut test pilots will be enough to attain NASA and Boeing’s testing goals for the Crew Flight Test. Williams and Wilmore will test the Starliner’s ability to safely conduct operational crewed missions to and fro the International Space Station, according to the US space agency.
NASA has plans in place to extend the CFT’s docked duration for up to six months and deploy an additional astronaut later, if required. This course of action will be undertaken to protect against “unforeseen events with crew transportation to the station”.
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