Astronauts Still Stuck on Space Station as Boeing Tries to Figure Out What's Wrong With Starliner

ISS Stranding

It seemingly took a small miracle for Boeing's Starliner to limp to the International Space Station in one piece — but the company is far from being out of the woods.

Yes, the plagued spacecraft managed to finally make it to the orbital outpost, with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on board, earlier this month.

But the journey didn't go by without a hitch — officials quickly discovered five different helium leaks affecting Starliner's thruster system.

Last week, NASA announced that it was giving Boeing an extra four days to figure out Wilmore and Williams' homecoming.

Now, the space agency has extended their stay for a second time as Boeing engineers scramble to get a read on the capsule's status, CNN reports — yet another sign that the aerospace giant's cursed spacecraft is still far from making regular visits to the ISS on NASA's behalf.

Long Way Home

The original plan was for Wilmore and Williams to stay on board the station for around a week. NASA has since announced that the two won't return until at least June 26, making their visit a minimum of three weeks longer than anticipated.

During its launch earlier this month, engineers discovered helium leaks affecting Starliner's thruster system, which helps it adjust its orbit. A first attempt to dock to the ISS failed due to a thruster malfunction, forcing it to hold its position around 850 feet from the space station.

At the time, officials had reassured the media that the capsule had roughly ten times as much helium as it needed to maneuver through space.

NASA remains optimistic. The agency's Commercial Crew Program manager Steve Stich told reporters on Tuesday that there's no reason to suggest that Starliner won't make it back in one piece, though "we really want to work through the remainder of the data," as quoted by CNN.

But Starliner still has a lot to prove. Its return journey will see it heat up considerably during reentry, only to slow its descent over the New Mexico desert with a parachute system that Boeing was forced to re-engineer due to safety concerns last year.

In short, Boeing's first crewed test flight has instilled little confidence so far — and there's a lot that could still go wrong.

More on the situation: Boeing Starliner Stuck on Space Station as More Leaks Discovered