Boeing tests space taxi; one of three parachutes does not open

Boeing Conducts Key Test For Human Launches

NASA's commercial crew partner Boeing has achieved a key milestone on the way to actually flying astronauts aboard its CST-100 Starliner: Demonstrating that its launch pad abort system works as designed, which is a key safety system that NASA requires to be in place before the aerospace company can put astronauts inside the Starliner.

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.

The 90-minute demonstration will fire four abort engines lifting the spacecraft off the launch pad.to almost a mile high before a parachute system deploys.

"It's too early to determine why all three main parachutes did not deploy", Blecher said.

Boeing and SpaceX have both been contracted by NASA to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Right now, NASA is anticipating the first human launches on SpaceX and Boeing's spaceships will occur early next year, more than eight years since the retirement of the space shuttle.

Starliner's four Launch Abort Engines and several Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control thrusters will fire and push the spacecraft approximately 1 mile (4,500 feet/1.6 km) above land and 1 mile (7,000 feet/1.6 km) north of the test stand at Launch Complex 32 on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The entire flight lasted one-and-a-half minutes. Only two of the three big red, white and blue parachutes deployed, but both NASA and Boeing said that was acceptable for test purposes.

NASA and Boeing are targeting December 17 for the Starliner's launch aboard United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral. For the first time in the history of space exploration, future variants of it will be capable of landing on solid soil rather than on water, thanks to the use of an airbag landing system that complements the parachutes.

If the upcoming orbital test goes well, Boeing will follow with the crew test flight.

Key to this test is ensuring the Starliner spacecraft's systems are able to function in concert with each other in addition to separately.

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