Indian American Astronaut Sunita Williams to Pilot Boeing’s Test Mission to Space Station
NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Barry Wilmore, and Mike Fincke, 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 mission, at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (photo: NASA/Joel Kowsky)
India-West Staff Reporter
WASHINGTON, DC – The National Aeronautic and Space Administration, NASA, has announced that Indian American astronaut Sunita Williams will be one of the two member crew on board the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test mission, the first crewed Starliner mission, to the International Space Station, where they will live and work for about two weeks.
Williams, will serve as the pilot with Barry Wilmore as the mission commander and astronaut Mike Fincke training as a backup pilot.
The duo will launch aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force station on a yet-to-be-finalized date, a press release said on June 16.
Williams previously served as the backup test pilot for CFT while assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, Starliner’s first post-certification mission.
The announcement comes after the success of Boeing’s recent Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) uncrewed mission. In what was the company’s second uncrewed flight, a Starliner capsule was launched on May 19 with 362 kilograms of cargo to test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing. While Starliner’s thrusters suffered a malfunction after liftoff, it managed to dock at the ISS and completed all parameters for a successful mission.
NASA said that if the CFT mission turns out to be successful, it will begin the process of certifying Starliner for regular commercial launches to the space station. Boeing is one of the two companies, apart from SpaceX, who were awarded contracts to send astronauts and cargo to space for NASA. SpaceX was certified for both crew and cargo launches in 2020 with the success of Demo-2 wherein it launched two astronauts in its Dragon capsule.