A taxi for Boeing astronauts remains on the way for a demonstration flight in December to the International Space Station (ISS) after passing a key safety test earlier this week.
On Monday (November 4th), the CST-100 Starliner capsule used its emergency ejectors to get into the air during a " swap test " in the U.S. Army missile range " White Sands "in New Mexico. Now, technicians have time to analyze the data and initial estimates are very positive, said NASA officials and Boeing officials.
"It was a solid test of what a vehicle can do if we ever have a problem with [launch]," said Katie Luders, manager of the NASA Commercial Team Program (CCP) during a teleconference with reporters today ( November 7)
The Boeing Develops Starliner under a CCP Contract at Value 4. $ 2 billion announced in September 2014. SpaceX also has a CCP deal, raising $ 2.6 billion to get the Crew Dragon capsule up and running. from NASA's point of view, is to return the orbital ability of human spaceflight to American soil; after the space shuttle's departure in 2011, the agency is completely dependent on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to bring its astronauts to and from the ISS
Luders described the test on Monday as a "huge step" and said additional analyzes would help Boeing and NASA prepare for the "advanced mission to come, and then ultimately to the crew mission for which we are all preparing for next year. ” This withdrawn mission, known as the Orbital Flight Test (OFT), is to launch. by Cape Canaveral Air Force Florida not earlier than December 17 . The Starliner will head to the ISS, remain attached to the orbital laboratory for about a week, and then return to Earth.
If all goes well with OFT, a team demonstration mission to the ISS will follow sometime next year. The agreed, operational flights will come after that.
Crew Dragon has already flown its version of OFT, spending six days attached to the ISS last March on a mission known as Demo-1. The demo-2, which will translate NASA astronauts Bob Benken and Doug Hurley into the orbital lab, could launch early next year if all goes well with the upcoming 1945 Crew Dragon abortion test and the newcomer test capsule reworked parachute system, SpaceX representatives say.
Starliner had a problem with its parachutes during Monday's pad break test: Only two of the three major parachutes were deployed as planned. The company has determined what went wrong with the third major chute, said John Mulholland, Boeing's vice president of sales and program manager.
"The main reason was the lack of a secure connection between the pilot chute and the main chute," Mulholland said during today's telecon.
Pilot chutes remove the main parachutes. At Starliner, the link between the pilot and the main chute is established by a pin, Mulholland explained.
Boeing will take steps to ensure that the problem is not properly secured to the main chute that failed to unfold, and the problem avoids detection before start-up, as the chute system is obscured by a protective sheath. to happen again, Mulholland said – for example by adding "pull tests" to pre-flight inspection mode. He also emphasized that Starliner performed excellently with the two main chutes.
The test, with at least 95 seconds on Monday, "validates the chute work well beyond any design requirements and further validates the strength of our spacecraft and our design," Mulholland said.
He also addressed the red cloud material that was emitted by Starliner when its emergency engines shut down. This plume is caused by about 1 gallon (3.8 liters) of residual nitric oxide oxidizer and that's completely normal, Mulholland said.
"The residual oxidizer you saw is with nominal effects On Monday, the subscribers' denial was "a tremendous success for the spacecraft and the test team that conducted the test," Mulholland added.
Mike Wall's book on the search for extraterrestrial life " There ] "(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate ), now out. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall . Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook .