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Boeing Tests Crew Escape System – Spaceflight Now

Editor's note: The test happened at 9:15 am EST (1415 GMT). We will have an updated story soon.

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A Boeing Starliner crew capsule will launch a booth early Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on a high-mileage flight validation test for a spacecraft emergency launch, a key moment before Starliner ships astronauts to the International Space Station next year.

The capsule will not fly to any astronaut on Monday when it launches a White Sands swab on a fast test flight that will only last 95 seconds from landing to landing.

But a lot will happen in flight called pad abort test, abortion of Starliner spacecraft engines, thrust controls, flight software, jetliner and parachutes.

Liftoff is designed to open a three-hour test window at 7 MST (9am EST; 1

400 GMT) on Monday from the same launch pad originally built for NASA's Orion Crew Cap Suspension Test in 2010.

"I call this a space shuttle launch site," said Chris F erguson, a Boeing pilot, astronaut and director of Starliner Crew and Mission Systems.

The swab abandonment test will show that Starliner can "quickly detach and gain distance from a firing vehicle if something goes wrong," Ferguson said in October. 22 in a panel discussion at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington.

Ferguson will fly on the first Starliner crew mission – a test flight expected to launch next year.

During an equipped launch, Starliner Service Engine Emergency Engines will launch the spacecraft from the top of its United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket in the event of a Cape Canaveral launch pad.

"We will go from zero speed, zero altitude and safely demonstrate an altitude of 1 mile, about 1- mile down the ability to remove a vehicle and safely lower it in what will be a desert environment for the White Sands test , but what would be right off the coast of Florida if we actually had a launch pad to suspend. [19659002] "A lot of everything we've been working on for the last eight years (all of it) is wrapped in about a 90-second test, so it's going to be pretty exciting," Ferguson says.

Boeing is developing a Starliner spacecraft under a $ 4.2 billion contract with NASA. The space agency also awarded SpaceX a $ 2.6 billion contract to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft, giving NASA two new commercial crew capsules to fly astronauts to the space station, ending US reliance on Russian vehicles Soyuz about the job.

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The Monday test to break the White Sands swab would pass quickly, with a few flashes and thunder, before three parachutes opened and the airbags inflated to bring the capsule lightly to the ground.

"This is a full-fledged Starliner," said Alisha Evans, director of the Boeing test flight on a NASA podcast last week. "It was created specifically for this test. But since we tested the integrated system, it has all the systems needed for the pad-abort test and has full avionics propulsion. "

On Monday morning, a command will activate specially designed valves to quickly open inside the Starliner Service Module and a high-pressure mixture of liquid hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide fuels will run into four start or LAE abortion engines. Chemical fuels will automatically burn when mixed together, generating 40,000 pounds of thrust from each of the engines produced by Aerojet Rocketdyne.

Engines combined with the thrust of smaller orbital rocket control or position control, or OMAC, will push 16.5-foot (5-meter) Starliner vehicles off the ground. A Boeing spokesman said the capsule would experience a steady 5Gs force for five seconds while the abortion launchers fired, the same astronauts would be during a real launch pad failure.

The Starliner capsule outlined for Monday's pad abort test is mounted on the same type of adapter that will connect a real spacecraft to the top of a ULA Atlas 5 rocket. When the ship lights up its four interrupt engines, the adapter's ventilation doors will open to prevent an overpressure event.

"At the launch pad, a rocket stands at its gate," Evans said. "You have a starter adapter that is structural hardware that adapts the launcher to Starliner. So we interact with him. Then you have the Starliner to sit on top of the rocket. And we have a service module as well as a crew module, which is the (combined) Starliner.

"During an interruption, if there was a rocket accident and we had to rescue the crew, what would happen? We have four large startup abortion engines that fire in connection with a few other smaller thrusts called our orbital maneuvers. and governing movements, ”Evans said. "And this combined collection of throttles lifts the Starliner away from the rocket and beyond any debris or explosive zone that can be created by the rocket."

During Monday's test, abortion engines will fire for 5.1 seconds, propelling the Starliner from zero to about 650 mph, a Boeing spokesman said.

Then the throttles will pulse to turn the spacecraft around and fly the tail first on an arc that will bring the vehicle to a maximum height of about 4 426 feet (1349 meters) above ground level about 18.6 seconds after takeoff.

The Boeing Line Interruption Test will withstand 95 seconds of launch by pressing the Crew Module. Credit: Boeing

Throttles will stop firing 17 seconds after takeoff and a series of pilots, drugs and three major parachutes will start to have a T + plus 20 seconds, according to Boeing.

The craft will eject its service module at T + plus 34 seconds to fall to the ground. The crew module will then release its main heat shield and then inflate the airbags to force the landing of the White Sands capsule about 95 seconds after takeoff.

"This is a complete demonstration of our landing sequence," Evans said. "We did a lot of subsystem tests of our landing sequence to show which component works individually, and in addition to showing that our propulsion system works to save the crew away from the rocket, the second half of the interrupt test is, that it lands on land as it would during the actual return flight. ”

In a real space mission, the Starliner service module will eject the crew module from space and then burn out upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Engineers will receive a video tracking of the Jetison system's function during the insulation failure test, along with observations of thermal shield separation events.

The service module in the test flight on Monday will crash to the ground. The residual engine inside the service module, which contains all the engines used for the interruption test, could cause ignition on impact, Boeing officials said.

"We will actually see our parachutes unfold and twist as the reefers allow it to shrink and see the crew module starting to float down," Evans said. "When we get closer to the ground, we see the main heat shield separated, which exposes our airbags, and then when we get closer to the ground, the airbags inflate.

"This will be the first time this has been demonstrated as hardware during an airborne flight," she said. "So I'm very excited to watch all this happen and then land on parachutes, on airbags, on land, which is the first American vehicle to do this."

SpaceX completed the swab discontinuation test for its Crew Dragon spacecraft on Cape Canaveral in 2015, and plans to have an abortion test on a flight later this year at the Kennedy Space Center to test the capsule's ability to launch a Falcon 9 rocket after its expiration.

NASA gave both companies the opportunity to decide whether to perform an abortion test on the flight.

A Starliner test vehicle sits on the launch pad at White Sand Missiles Range in New Mexico before a swab break test Monday, November 4. The abolition test will confirm that the spacecraft can safely carry astronauts away from an emergency launch. Credit: Boeing

"Boeing will not do an abortion test on the flight," says John Cowart, NASA's Office of Commerce Mission Management Office deputy manager. "They will just make the land. They think they can get enough data and then extrapolate it with good analytical techniques that we have approved. They will do it this way against SpaceX, which will do both.

"We knew about it up front, both Boeing and SpaceX, when they offered us their contracts and said, 'This is how we get to real flights,'" Cowart said last week in a NASA podcast. "We got it right, and we dealt with it. We think and agree with them that we can take whatever we need from a refusal test. "

Katie Luders, who runs the NASA Commercial Crew Program, called the Boeing swab to end" a huge test for us. "

" Obviously, it will be important for us to understand how the separation for CM and SM (crew and service module) works, checking the chutes, making sure the forecasts are right for us, "said Luders on Wednesday

Boeing is in the final stages of assembling and testing two Starliner spacecraft inside a former space shuttle hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The first of the capsules is scheduled to launch at once aboard an Atlas 5 rocket aboard Cape Canaveral Air Force pad 41 on a non-manned unmanned test flight to the space station after Dec. 17. That mission, called the Orbital Test Flight, will not have an active abortion system, but Luders said wants to see the Starliner submit to the abortion test before moving on with the OFT mission.

"OFT does not have an abortion system on it because it is an undeveloped mission, but obviously the way the system splits and everything else will has affected the progress of OFT, so it is extremely important for us to start t ozi test and find out before we deploy the spacecraft (

The Starliner crew flight test to the space station will follow for some time in the first half of 2020, with NASA's Mike Fink astronauts joining and Nicole Mann.

While the final preparation, as this weekend in New Mexico undergoes an abortion test, Boeing technicians at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida were preparing the first Starliner spacecraft to refuel. Later this month, it will be installed over Cape Canaveral's Atlas 5 rocket for final integrated cassettes and full rehearsal before its planned mid-December release.

The Starliner test vehicle sits on the White Rocket launch site in New Mexico before the abort test on Monday, November 4. The isolation termination test will confirm that the spacecraft can safely transport astronauts away from an emergency. Credit: Boeing

The new Boeing and SpaceX crew capsules may be ready to fly astronauts in the first half of next year, according to NASA officials.

The Commercial Crew Program is a new paradigm for NASA. Boeing and SpaceX are responsible, but since NASA is the only client for the new spacecraft so far, the government still has a lot of importance in the way contractors execute the program.

"They have flight tests," says Cowart. "Even when they start flying in the space station, they own the spacecraft, they own the rocket. But these specific tests – they own them, which means we will consult them, but in the end they are the ones who have the tests and the results.

"This is part of their certification," he said. "They have to provide us with the data from these tests before our astronauts can fly on board. And we have to say, "Yes, you have the right amount of data and that the data is good and that the vehicle will work properly." But … this is something that is different from the way NASA has done business in the past. We don't own the rocket. We don't own a spaceship … It's more than consulting and less than owning. ”

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .

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