Boeing Successfully Tests Safety Launch Pad Abort System for Starliner Spacecraft


The Starliner used the same launch pad originally built for a pad abort test of NASA's Orion crew capsule in 2010, according to Space Flight Now.

The capsule then was expected to arc over at the high point of its trajectory - 4,426 feet above the launch site - 19 seconds after liftoff.

Only two of the three main parachutes deployed, but NASA said astronauts would have been safe if aboard.

Unlike the Apollo lunar capsules that ended their flights with ocean splashdowns, the Starliner is created to land at ground facilities in the western US, jettisoning its heat shield and inflating airbags to cushion impact while descending under the main parachutes. The first crewed Starliner mission, which was delayed multiple times since 2017, has now slipped into early 2020.

Boeing's first uncrewed orbital flight test is planned for December 17.

"We have tested with two good mains in qualification and that is acceptable for our landing sequence", said Landa.

The abort system is created to provide a fast getaway for a crew, if there's an emergency on the Florida pad or in flight. The four launch abort engines and control thrusters will lift the spacecraft roughly a mile above the ground and a mile north of the test platform.

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Where: A live stream of the launch will be available on both NASA's and Boeing's YouTube channels.

However it plays out, NASA managers are hopeful 2020 will mark the end of a nine-year hiatus in US human spaceflight that began when the space shuttle's retirement in 2011.

Both projects have faced delays, including an explosion involving the Crew Dragon capsule that visited the ISS during a subsequent test of the escape engines.

The Starliner is part of NASA's effort to send more American astronauts into space using private companies. The test was created to verify that each of Starliner's four abort systems will function not only separately, but in concert, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff.

"It's been a long time since we've launched out of the United States", NASA astronaut Mike Fincke said after the test.

In total, Aerojet Rocketdyne provides 28 reaction control system engines, 20 orbital maneuvering and attitude control engines, and four launch abort engines on the Starliner service module. The test is meant to guarantee that the ship's four prematurely end motors and control engines will fire on account of a crisis on the platform, conveying the container and space travelers up into the clouds from the potential threat.

The spacecraft service module, which has a total of 52 engines including those created to give small directional changes in orbit, was not planned to and did not survive the test.