Astronaut Sunita Williams likely to fly on May 25 for her 3rd space mission: NASA

Sunday, 19 May, 2024
Photo Courtesy: X@Astro_Suni

New York: Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams is expected to embark on her third space mission on May 25 with NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test to the International Space Station.

The Boeing Starliner's historic crewed manned mission, which was set for earlier this month, was delayed yet again over a helium leak detected in one of the capsule's thrusters, NASA said.

In a post shared on X, the space agency wrote: "NASA, @BoeingSpace, and @ulalaunch are now targeting no earlier than 3:09 pm ET May 25 for the launch of the agency's Boeing Crew Flight Test mission".

"Teams will use the additional time to finalise next steps that address a stable helium leak on the #Starliner service module".

Facing several delays over the years, the mission was planned on May 7 but it was scrubbed two hours before launch, due to a valve issue on the upper stage of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.

While NASA said that the "testing also indicated the rest of the thruster system is sealed effectively across the entire service module", Boeing said its teams are working to "develop operational procedures to ensure the system retains sufficient performance capability and appropriate redundancy during the flight".

Currently, the ULA Atlas V rocket and Boeing's Starliner, which was rolled back from the launch pad, remain in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Williams will remain quarantined in Houston as pre-launch operations progress, according to media reports.

The Starliner mission aims to carry astronauts and cargo for future NASA missions to low Earth orbit, and beyond.

Williams was selected as an astronaut by NASA in 1998 and is a veteran of two space missions, Expeditions 14/15 and 32/33.

Born September 19, 1965 in Ohio to Dr Deepak and Bonnie Pandya, she has spent a total of 322 days in space over the course of her two missions, and with 50 hours and 40 minutes, she holds the record for total cumulative spacewalk time by a female astronaut.

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