Boeing’s first crewed flight to the ISS may last longer than expected and this mission also may have an extra crew member along. Boeing’s Starliner vehicle is planned to take NASA astronauts to the ISS for the first time on a two-week trip, but NASA wants to extend this voyage to six months. Along with the only two person crew on the spacecraft, a third astronaut could be added.Meant only for a test flight, the Starliner trip is going to be the main one. Both Boen and SpaceX have been developing private vehicles to transport astronauts to and from the ISS as a part of contract with NASA. Before doing the full mission NASA wants each spacecraft to do two test flights to the ISS first, one without people on board and then one with crew. The two person flight is simply a demonstration, the full operation missions will last for months at a time and have up to four crew members on board.
But the Boeing’s test flight may be going to be a full crewed mission. This may be because NASA is running short of ways to get its astronauts to the ISS. Currently they use Russian Soyuz rockets to fly to the station. The last Soyuz that will cary NASA astronauts will take off in fall 2019. After that NASA will rely on its Commercial crew partners to take astronauts to and from the ISS.SpaceX and Boeing may not be ready to support full months long mission as of now. The two companies were supposed to have their vehicles certified for crew by this year. But the commercial crew program has suffered numerous setbacks, and now, both companies are scheduled to do their first crewed flight tests later this year. After these tests are over, it could take upto six months before the companies are ready to begin full missions.
NASA hopes to preempt any potential gaps in access to the ISS by turning the Boeing’s flight into a full mission. “Turning a test flight into more of an operation mission needs careful review by the technical community,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations.”For example, the spacecraft capability to support the additional time still needs to be reviewed.”
Boeing says it’s ready to make the change.”It was clear to us that we needed to provide NASA with additional flexibility to ensure the station remains fully staffed and fully operational until the Commercial Crew Program providers can pick up a more regular cadence of flying long-duration crew rotation missions,” Boeing .