CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — NASA is planning to fly two astronaut test pilots on its Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission to the International Space Station, where they will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks, according to a news release by NASA.

What You Need To Know

  • NASA is planning to fly two astronaut test pilots on its Boeing Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space Station

  • They will live and work off the Earth for about two weeks

  • On the flight will be CFT commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore along with NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will be the pilot

On the flight will be CFT Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore, who was assigned by NASA to the prime crew in October 2020, along with NASA astronaut Suni Williams, who will be the pilot. Williams was the backup test pilot for CFT while she was assigned as commander of NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission. NASA says Williams is replacing NASA astronaut Nicole Mann as CFT pilot, who was originally assigned to the mission in 2018. Mann was reassigned in 2021 to the agency’s SpaceX Crew-5 mission.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who was 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, according to the news release.

“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 aboard the space station as long-duration crew members, according to NASA.

NASA astronaut Jeanette Epps is continuing to get ready for an upcoming long duration mission on Starliner-1. NASA says it has also identified backup flight opportunities for Epps on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft for additional scheduling and resource flexibility.

In the meantime, NASA and Boeing are continuing to conduct OFT-2 data reviews while determining CFT launch opportunities in the future, according to the release.

NASA says that following successful completion of the uncrewed OFT-2 mission, the Starliner crew module has returned to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where it will have system checkouts and vehicle inspections. According to the news release, the Starliner team is delivering the initial test flight data to NASA and jointly determining forward work ahead of a crewed flight. NASA expects these engineering and program reviews to continue for several weeks, reaching a launch schedule assessment at the end of July, which is based upon factors that include spacecraft readiness, space station scheduling needs and Eastern Range availability.

“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, according to NASA, 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.

A short duration mission with two astronaut test pilots is enough to meet all NASA and Boeing test objectives for CFT, according to NASA, based upon current resources and scheduling needs of the space station. Test objectives include showing Starliner’s ability to safely fly operational crewed missions to and from the space station.

NASA says that it may extend the CFT docked duration up to six months and add an astronaut later, if needed, in order to protect against unforeseen events with crew transportation to the station.

After a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for crew missions to the space station, according to the news release. NASA says regular, long-duration commercial crew rotation missions help to continue research and technology investigations that take place aboard the orbiting laboratory, adding that this research is beneficial to people on Earth and lays the groundwork for a future exploration of the Moon and Mars, starting with the agency’s Artemis missions, which include landing the first woman and first person of color on the lunar surface.