Boeing says the Starliner is setting the foundation for commercial passenger flights to and from low-Earth orbit destinations.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner propulsion system was put to the test at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico.
Teams ran multiple tests on both the vehicle’s in-space manoeuvring system as well as the critical launch abort system.
Boeing describes the Starliner crew transportation spacecraft as “a 21st Century Space Capsule”. It is being developed in collaboration with NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme. The Starliner is designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit.
For NASA service missions to the International Space Station, it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew members and time-critical scientific research. The Starliner has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. It also features wireless internet and tablet technology.
The test used a flight-like Starliner service module with a full propulsion system comprising fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system and orbital manoeuvring and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines and all necessary fuel lines and avionics.
During the test:
- 19 thrusters fired to simulate in-space manoeuvres;
- 12 thrusters fired to simulate a high-altitude abort;
- 22 propulsion elements, including the launch abort engines, fired to simulate a low-altitude abort.
John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Programme, said: “With the safety of our astronauts at the forefront of all we do, this successful testing proves this system will work correctly and keep Starliner and the crew safe through all phases of flight,” said “The milestone paves the way for the upcoming pad abort test and flights to and from the International Space Station later this year.”
Boeing also says the Starliner is setting the foundation for commercial passenger flights to and from low-Earth orbit destinations for international astronauts, scientists and even tourists.