NASA selects astronaut test pilots for Boeing Starliner flight to space station

Boeing Starliner missile ULA

Boeing Starliner. credit score: Boeing

Based upon current space station resources and scheduling needs, a short-duration mission with two astronaut test pilots is sufficient to meet all NASA and Boeing test objectives for CFT, which include demonstrating Starliner’s ability to safely fly operational crewed missions to and from the space station. To protect against unforeseen events with crew transportation to the station, NASA may extend the CFT docked duration up to six months and add an additional astronaut later, if needed.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, whom the agency previously assigned as the Joint Operations Commander for CFT, will now train as the backup spacecraft test pilot and remains eligible for assignment to a future mission. Fincke’s unique expertise will continue to benefit the team as he retains his position as flight test lead, filling a vital role in Starliner certification.

NASA Astronauts Suni Williams, Barry “Butch” Wilmore, and Mike Fincke ULA Atlas V Rocket

NASA astronauts Suni Williams, left, Barry “Butch” Wilmore, center, and Mike Fincke, right, watch as a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Wednesday, May 18, 2022, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

“Mike Fincke has dedicated the last nine years of his career to these first Boeing missions and Suni the last seven. Butch has done a marvelous job leading the team as the spacecraft commander since 2020,” said Reid Wiseman, chief, Astronaut Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. “It was great to see Starliner’s successful journey to the International Space Station during the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission last month. We are all looking forward to cheering on Butch and Suni as they fly the first crewed Starliner mission.”

Wilmore, Williams, and Fincke each have flown previously as long-duration crew members aboard the space station.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps continues to prepare for an upcoming long-duration mission aboard Starliner-1. NASA also has identified backup flight opportunities for Epps on the

“Starliner and the Atlas V performed well during all phases of OFT-2, and now we are taking a methodical look at each system to determine what needs to be upgraded or improved ahead of CFT, just as we do with every other crewed flight,” said Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Additionally, Butch, Suni, and Mike have been instrumental in the development of Starliner on the path to having a second space station crew transportation system.”

For the crewed flight test, Boeing’s Starliner will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Following a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for crew missions to the space station. Regular, long-duration commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration of the Moon and