HOUSTON (Diya TV) — Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams remains safe and busy with research and maintenance on the International Space Station (ISS), NASA announced, following delays in her return to Earth. These delays, caused by technical issues on the Boeing Starliner spacecraft, sparked concerns for the crew who traveled to the ISS on June 5. Williams will discuss the crew’s mission in a live address from the space station on July 10 at 8:30 PM.

Williams and her crewmate Butch Wilmore have spent over a month on the ISS, despite their mission initially being scheduled for just 10 days. They encountered multiple technical glitches with the Boeing Starliner. NASA confirmed that the ISS, currently hosting nine crew members, continues its planned activities. Over the past four weeks, Williams has assisted in disassembling and emptying racks for future missions and assessed airflow in the filters. Wilmore, alongside NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, loaded trash and discarded gear into the Cygnus spacecraft on July 2. The Cygnus, built by Northrop Grumman, is set to be released from the ISS’s Unity module later this month for disposal over the South Pacific Ocean.

The ISS, a mini-city the size of a football field, weighs 419 tonnes and costs over $150 billion. It has hosted astronauts since 2000, experiencing 16 sunrises daily in its orbit, making its upkeep crucial and challenging. Williams and Wilmore reached the ISS aboard the Boeing Starliner on June 6. Initially, they were to return on June 14, but the trip was delayed to June 26 due to technical issues with the spacecraft. No new return date has been disclosed by NASA.

NASA and Boeing announced the delay, stating, “NASA and Boeing leadership are adjusting the return to Earth of the Starliner Crew Flight Test spacecraft with agency astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams from the International Space Station. The move off Wednesday, June 26, deconflicts Starliner’s undocking and landing from a series of planned International Space Station spacewalks while allowing mission teams time to review propulsion system data.”

The delay results from helium leaks on the Starliner and technical issues in five of its 28 thrusters. Experts state that at least 14 thrusters are necessary for a safe return trip. Despite the indefinite extension of Williams’ ISS mission, NASA assures that the crew is not in a hurry to leave, given the ample supplies and the relatively open schedule through mid-August.

Boeing faces criticism for the unexpected technical glitches in its spacecraft’s maiden crewed mission. These issues mirror problems plaguing Boeing’s aviation business, as noted during Boeing CEO David Calhoun’s recent grilling by US Senators about the company’s safety culture and transparency.

Projected to last only days, the Starliner’s first crewed test flight now faces uncertainty. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, Steve Stich, mentioned the possibility of extending the mission from 45 days to 90 days. Both Stich and Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program manager, highlighted ongoing ground tests in New Mexico to understand the thruster malfunctions.

Williams and Wilmore have integrated with the ISS crew, performing routine tasks despite the Starliner’s helium leaks and thruster issues. The Starliner’s service module, providing much of the vehicle’s power, faced significant problems. Designed to be jettisoned and destroyed upon reentry, the module’s failure led NASA and Boeing to keep the spacecraft docked at the ISS for further investigation.