Boeing completed the first end-to-end test of the CST-100 Starliner crew capsule abort system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program on Monday. Although the spacecraft experienced a “deployment anomaly” that caused only two of the three main parachutes to open, NASA and Boeing reported that the vehicle’s performance fell within the range of acceptable test and crew safety parameters. The abort system is designed to propel the crew capsule to safety in the event of an emergency before liftoff.
“Emergency scenario testing is very complex, and today our team validated that the spacecraft will keep our crew safe in the unlikely event of an abort,” said Boeing Commercial Crew Program Manager John Mulholland. “Our teams across the program have made remarkable progress to get us to this point, and we are fully focused on the next challenge—Starliner’s uncrewed flight to demonstrate Boeing’s capability to safely fly crew to and from the space station.”
The pad abort test took place at Launch Complex 32 at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It lasted for approximately 95 seconds, during which the Starliner was propelled away from the test stand by four launch abort engines, preformed a pitch-around maneuver, deployed parachutes, separated from the service module and heat shield, and inflated airbags before landing. The vehicle’s next mission is expected to be an unmanned orbital flight test in December.