Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson withdraws from Starliner test flight

WASHINGTON — Chris Ferguson, the former NASA astronaut who was to command the first crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, has withdrawn from the mission for personal reasons, the company announced Oct. 7.

Ferguson, who joined Boeing in 2011 after a NASA career that included commanding the final space shuttle mission, was to lead the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission currently scheduled for launch in the middle of 2021, a flight that also includes NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke.

In an interview, Ferguson said he decided to step down from the mission because of family obligations. “It was a decision that was not made lightly,” he said. “It surrounds what has really amounted to a year that is replete with family obligations that I just do not want to risk missing.”

He didn’t elaborate on those obligations, beyond being “the best kind of family issues.”

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NASA safety panel raises doubts about Starliner test flight schedule

WASHINGTON — A NASA safety panel said that while Boeing was making good progress on implementing changes to its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle, it had doubts that work could be done in time to allow another test flight this year.

At an Oct. 1 meeting of the Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, committee member Donald McErlean said Boeing was making “substantial progress” on preparations for Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2, a second uncrewed test flight that the company said earlier this year it would fly after the original OFT mission last December suffered a series of problems.

He said the Starliner crew module that will fly the OFT-2 mission is about 80% complete and its service module 90% complete. Other components for the mission, including its Atlas 5 launch vehicle and a spacecraft adaptor, have either been delivered or are being completed.

NASA and Boeing announced Aug. 28 that the

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