Space Boeing Starliner Pad Abort Test Successful. What's Next?

In this image made from a video provided by NASA the Starliner capsule rests on the ground after a test of Boeing's crew capsule's launch abort system in White Sands Missile Range in N.M. on Monday Nov. 4 2019. The capsule carried no astronau

The company conducted the test at White Sands Missile Range as part of the process to certify Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to carry astronauts as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The exciting thing about Aerodyne's innovation for the crew vehicle's launch abort system is that it allows for a safe abort at any time during the mission, which has never before been possible with crew vehicles.

"We are thrilled with the preliminary results, and now we have the job of really digging into the data and analysing whether everything worked as we expected", NASA's commercial crew manager, Kathy Lueders, said in a statement.

During Monday's test, Starliner fired into the air for about 20 seconds using specialized abort engines, and it followed an arc-shaped path to a nearby landing.

Monday's test was meant to demonstrate the Starliner abort system will work as required if a crew ever needs to escape from its Atlas 5 booster while still on the launch pad or at extremely low altitudes.

"We've tested all these systems individually, so we know the propulsion system fires at the intended levels, and we know the parachutes can support the vehicle and safely slow it down, but the real test is making sure those systems can perform together, " said Boeing's pad abort test flight director Alicia Evans. Mann said that after this test, this felt much closer. The flight originated from a 40-foot-tall (12-meter) stand topped by a test article of the launch vehicle adapter that will be used to attach Starliner to a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its ride to space.

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

Boeing has encountered a variety of technical hurdles and setbacks during Starliner development, putting the program well behind schedule.

SpaceX also is building an astronaut ferry ship, known as the Crew Dragon, that also is in the final stages of preparation for piloted flights to the space station. NASA said last month that Boeing could launch that mission on December 17.

Boeing is one of the companies, along with SpaceX, that NASA has chosen to build spacecraft to shuttle astronauts to the ISS. The capsule, launched from a test stand, accelerated about 650 miles per hour (1,000 kmp/h) in five seconds flat. Jim has covered the Kennedy Space Center since 2006.