Boeing's Starliner, one of two American commercial spacecraft meant to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), achieved a critical safety milestone earlier today November 4, 2019, with a successful end-to-end test of its abort system.
The test will show how the Starliner spacecraft can escape from its Atlas V launch vehicle in an emergency and safely return the crew to Earth.
"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.More news: Devin Singletary, Bills easily run over Redskins at home
The spacecraft jettisoned its heat shield and service module mid-air, leaving the saucer-shaped crew compartment to deploy a halo of airbags before drifting to a landing about one mile away from the launch site - using two parachutes instead of three. The parachutes are created to slow down the capsules when they return to Earth at supersonic speeds.
"We really appreciate our friends in Russian Federation for having the launch vehicle and the Soyuz". Only two of the three big red, white and blue parachutes deployed, but both NASA and Boeing said that was acceptable for test purposes. "Going forward we will do everything needed to ensure safe orbital flights with crew".
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.More news: LeBron James, Anthony Davis lead Lakers past Spurs
"That's when you know these systems are ready to fly people".
Starliner is now set for an unmanned test flight to the International Space Station on December 17. The entire test only took about 95 seconds, and actually propelled Starliner to an altitude of approximately 4,500 feet (about twice the height of the world's tallest building Burj Khalifa in Dubai). That capsule carried a test dummy and supplies; SpaceX aims to put astronauts on board sometime early next year.
"We have Starliner taking flight for the very first time", a commentator on NASA Live TV said.More news: Biden holds steady in new poll as Warren, Buttigieg gain ground
NASA has picked Boeing and Elon Musk's SpaceX as the main contractors to build rocket-and-capsule launch systems to return Americans to the orbiting research lab for the first time since the US space shuttle program ended in 2011.