Science & Technology

Boeing bounces back with successful test of Starliner space taxi’s propulsion system

Boeing has efficiently run the propulsion system for its CST-100 Starliner space taxi by the same test it failed almost a year ago, marking a major step towards carrying astronauts to the Worldwide Space Station.

The thruster firing for Starliner’s launch abort system was half of a sequence of exams carried out on Thursday on the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. An identical test went awry final June, on account of an undesirable leak of propellant. No {hardware} was destroyed, however the issue contributed to delays for Starliner’s first flight.

The current schedule requires the capsule to be launched on an uncrewed flight to the space station within the August time-frame, and for the primary crewed flight to happen by the top of the yr. Starliner is designed to be launched atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. (ULA is a Boeing-Lockheed Martin three way partnership.)

Starliner’s launch abort system is designed to come back into play solely within the occasion of an emergency that requires the space taxi to be pulled away from the Atlas 5. It makes use of a set of rocket engines built by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Boeing stated Thursday’s exams made use of a flight-like Starliner service module that was outfitted with a full propulsion system, together with the launch abort engines in addition to gas and helium tanks, a response management system, thrusters for orbital maneuvering and perspective management, and all the mandatory gas strains and avionics.

The essential test concerned firing 22 propulsion parts, together with the launch abort engines, to simulate a low-altitude abort situation. As well as, 12 thrusters had been fired to simulate a high-altitude abort, and 19 thrusters had been fired to simulate in-space maneuvers.

“With the protection of our astronauts on the forefront of all we do, this successful testing proves this system will work appropriately and hold Starliner and the crew secure by all phases of flight,” John Mulholland, vice chairman and program supervisor of Boeing’s Industrial Crew Program, said in a news release. “The milestone paves the best way for the upcoming pad abort test and flights to and from the Worldwide Space Station later this yr.”

The pad abort test ought to happen at White Sands this summer time.

Along with Boeing’s Starliner growth effort, SpaceX is upgrading its Dragon spacecraft for NASA’s use as a crewed space taxi. SpaceX successfully conducted a pad abort test back in 2015, and launched the Crew Dragon on a successful uncrewed test flight up to the space station and back down to Earth in March.

Nevertheless, the craft that made that journey was destroyed last month during a follow-up engine test firing, forcing a delay within the schedule for an in-flight abort test and SpaceX’s first crewed flight to the space station. Because of the investigation of the anomaly, SpaceX’s schedule for launching astronauts is presently up within the air.

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