Following the successful completion of OFT-2, which saw an unmanned Boeing Starliner spacecraft deliver supplies to the International Space Station (ISS), NASA will send two of its astronauts aboard the Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station where they will live and work for two weeks. Approximately.
NASA astronaut Sunita “Sony” L. Williams will be a pilot and will be joined by CFT captain Barry “Butch” Wilmore. Williams was previously a reserve test pilot for the CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the Starliner post-certification mission. Williams replaced NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, who was originally assigned the mission in 2018. NASA reassigned Mann to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission in 2021.
A short-term mission with two astronauts is sufficient to meet all of the NASA and Boeing CFT test goals, based on the space station’s existing resources and scheduling needs. Objectives include demonstrating the ability of the Starliner to safely fly operationally manned missions to and from the space station. NASA may extend the CFT docking period by up to six months and add an additional astronaut later if needed.
Previously appointed as CFT Joint Operations Commander, NASA astronaut Mike Fink will now train as a reserve test pilot for the spacecraft and will continue to be eligible for assignment to a future mission. According to the space agency, Fincke’s unique experience will benefit the team as he retains his position as leader in flight tests.
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“Mike Fink has dedicated the last nine years of his career to the first Boeing missions and Sony the last seven. Butch has done an amazing job leading the team as spacecraft commander since 2020. It has been great to see the successful Starliner flight to the International Space Station during the Orbital Flight mission. “We all look forward to Butch’s encouragement and Sony as they take the first manned Starliner flight,” Reed Wiseman, chief of the astronaut office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, said in a press release.
Each of the three astronauts has previously flown as crew members for extended periods aboard the space station. Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft will blast off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida for a manned flight test.