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Astronauts' delayed return reflects high stakes for Boeing and NASA

Engineers want more time to study problems with the Starliner capsule's propulsion system before crew flies home

Before Boeing's first flight with humans on its Starliner spacecraft earlier this month, the company and NASA said repeatedly that a rigorous testing program following years of delays and costly setbacks meant it was finally ready to fly astronauts.

They also warned that since this was a test flight to and from the International Space Station, everything might not go perfectly.

It hasn't gone perfectly.

Instead of coming home after about eight days, the spacecraft remains docked to the station, its return delayed indefinitely while teams continue to troubleshoot a series of problems - helium leaks and a few thrusters that stopped working at a critical moment in the flight - in the capsule's propulsion system.


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