Assuming everything goes according to plan, ground teams will begin the fueling process some 40 days before launch. In terms of completed fixes, Nappi cited a logic error that emerged in a backup manual flight mode during ground simulations with the crew, which he said was simple to resolve with a slight modification to the vehicle. That said, the team now wants to make sure that this issue “doesn’t exist anywhere else and that it’s an isolated case.”


Starliner is one of two spacecraft included in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon being the other. Dragon has been in operation for three years, while Starliner is still in the process of being certified. A steady stream of technical issues has prevented the Boeing project from taking off, but the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) test to the ISS went reasonably well, in what was an encouraging sign.

The CFT mission will last a minimum of eight days, both Stich and Nappi confirmed, but extensions are possible should the situation allow and if further tests are warranted. As for the existing ISS crew, Montalbano said the current plan is to return NASA astronaut Frank Rubio on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft on September 27. Should the plan stick, Rubio will have spent 371 consecutive days aboard the ISS, establishing a new record for a U.S. astronaut.


Rubio was originally supposed to return on the MS-22 Soyuz spacecraft, but the capsule’s radiator unexpectedly leaked out its coolant in December, rendering the vehicle unsafe for a crew. The uncrewed MS-22 returned to Earth yesterday, with unverified reports suggesting that internal temperatures rose to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) inside the cabin.

When asked about this during today’s briefing, Montalbano said he saw the report but that the technical team provided him with different information. He plans to converse with his Russian colleagues to better understand what happened so that NASA can make decisions about future crew returns. He promised to get back to reporters in about two to three weeks and possibly even hold a briefing on the topic that would include a “surgeon” to discuss potential health risks posed to astronauts when exposed to such extreme heat and humidity inside the capsule. Until his team speaks with Roscosmos, however, discussions about the conditions inside MS-22 remain speculation, Montalbano added.


Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the logic error happened during Orbital Flight Test 2, when it in fact happened during ground simulations.  

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