NASA and Boeing to address stuck Starliner following debris storm

  • Tensions were high aboard the International Space Station this week when debris was detected near the orbital laboratory.
  • Crew were ordered to shelter in their spacecraft which includes Boeing’s Starliner which remains at the ISS as technical problems are addressed.
  • NASA and Boeing will address the delayed return of Starliner later today.

Things are not going well for Boeing and its space aspirations. Following several delays in launching its Starliner, the spacecraft is now effectively stuck at the International Space Station (ISS), turning a 10-day mission into one that is now going on three weeks.

The crewed mission to the ISS was fraught with trouble from the moment it launched. Al Jazeera reports that en route to orbital laboratory, Starliner sprung “several” helium leaks and a thruster malfunctioned. Four more thrusters failed during a docking attempt, delaying the crew’s arrival.

Boeing says this isn’t an issue for the return mission but it appears to be cautious about that mission hence the delays.

Later today, Boeing and NASA will provide an update on the return mission, but the space agency says it continues to evaluate Starliner’s propulsion systems before scheduling a return mission.

Fixing the issues with Starliner are a high priority right now following an event that happened on Thursday morning.

Shortly after 9PM EDT, NASA instructed the crew aboard the ISS to shelter aboard their respective spacecraft following “a satellite break-up at an altitude near the station’s earlier”.

“Mission Control continued to monitor the path of the debris, and after about an hour, the crew was cleared to exit their spacecraft and the station resumed normal operations,” NASA said on X.

While it’s great that nothing bad happened, had the Starliner crew needed to evacuate the ISS, it’s not clear what would have happened.

While NASA didn’t state what satellite lead to the debris, LeoLabs reports that it may have been a non-operational Russian spacecraft, namely Resurs P1.

“The ~6,000 kg satellite was in a nearly circular orbit at ~355 km at the time of the event,” LeoLabs said on X. The company is reportedly tracking hundreds of fragments created by the event.

Earlier this week NASA announced that SpaceX would have the honour of deorbiting the International Space Station. The orbital laboratory will come to Earth in 2030 although don’t expect a disaster level event to make landfall.

Instead the ISS will be sent where all good spacecraft go when their time is up – Point Nemo. This area in the Pacific Ocean is as far away from land one can get and as such, has become known as the spacecraft graveyard because of all the satellites and other spacecraft that have been laid to rest there.


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