Listen live today as NASA, Boeing discuss Starliner return, spacewalk issues

NASA and Boeing will discuss their next plans and a possible landing schedule for the first Starliner spacecraft mission with astronauts later today (June 28), and you can listen in live.

Boeing Starliner launched on June 5 for what was supposed to be a 10-day mission, but the test effort with astronauts needed extra time to address helium leaks and thruster issues uncovered during the June 6 docking with the International Space Station (ISS). The team will provide an update to reporters at 2 p.m. EDT (1800 GMT), which you can listen to here on via NASA Television. 

NASA will also provide an update on an unexpectedly busy week at ISS. One astronaut had a spacesuit coolant leak during a spacewalk on June 24 that required halting the planned 6.5-hour excursion after only 31 minutes. (The crew was never in any major danger, NASA said at the time.) The Expedition 71 crew also temporarily took shelter in their return spacecraft June 26 after a satellite broke up in low Earth orbit, although the precautionary procedure lasted only an hour.

Starliner‘s 10-day Crew Flight Test mission with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, both former U.S. Navy test pilots, is a developmental mission that had flexibility built into it in case of the unexpected in space.

That unexpected happened on June 6 during docking, as an ongoing tiny helium leak and five misbehaving thrusters affected Starliner’s final approach to the ISS. NASA waved off the first attempt at docking to make sure Starliner was ready to go, but authorized the second attempt — which made it to the orbiting complex.

Extra testing and review of the helium supply and five thrusters (out of 28 in the reaction control system) revealed the leak had stabilized and that most of the thrusters were recovering. NASA and Boeing have decided, however, not to use at least one of those thrusters during landing due to performance concerns.

Related: Will Boeing Starliner issues delay its 1st long-duration astronaut flight? It’s too soon to tell.

Boeing Starliner docked to the International Space Station during Crew Flight Test in June 2024. (Image credit: NASA)


The testing was finished several days ago, and while analysis continues on the ground, Wilmore and Williams pivoted their time into ISS maintenance duties and supporting the abbreviated June 24 spacewalk. 

NASA has a July 2 spacewalk on the manifest, but whether that goes forward depends on what they find from the coolant leak. The last update from Boeing and NASA to reporters on June 21 indicated the departure of Starliner will be sometime after July 2, following the second spacewalk in the series.

Starliner is a new spacecraft type from Boeing, as opposed to the other commercial crew supplier that ferries astronauts to the ISS: SpaceX‘s Crew Dragon, which is based on the Cargo Dragon design. Starliner took two uncrewed missions to get ready for CFT, after the first effort failed to reach the ISS in 2019 due to computer glitches. 

Dragon, meanwhile, had a single uncrewed mission in 2019 and a single astronaut flight test in 2020 before starting operational ISS crewed missions every six months.

Following the COVID-19 pandemic and dozens of fixes, Starliner’s second uncrewed test flight safely reached the ISS in 2022 after also experiencing thruster issues during docking. One reason CFT has been docked for extra time is to evaluate the service module in which most of the fuel is located, as that will be discarded during landing. That testing may determine more about why Starliner’s thruster system had issues during the 2022 and 2024 dockings.

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