CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — On Monday, Boeing will conduct a pad abort test of its Starliner spacecraft to show it can protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the event of an emergency.
Meanwhile, SpaceX is prepping its Crew Dragon for its own testing.
It’s all part of the effort to restore NASA’s ability to launch U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil for the first time since the retirement of the shuttle program.
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NASA anticipates astronauts will be flying to the International Space Station next year, but NASA has also said nothing is more important than the safety of its astronauts.
Boeing will put its CST-100 Starliner launch abort system to the test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Boeing and SpaceX are both working to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s commercial crew program.
“We’ll have both companies doing some abort tests leading up to the additional tests and hopefully not too long.
A couple of months we’ll put people on the point-end and that’s what we’re all looking for,” said Dale Ketcham, of Space Florida.
While SpaceX has not released a target date for its in-flight abort test, both the Crew Dragon and Falcon 9 being used for the test currently being prepped for flight.
SpaceX has completed its pad abort test and an unmanned test flight to the ISS.
Boeing’s uncrewed test flight is scheduled for next month.
"We are getting ready to put people aboard these capsules, so we want to make sure we’re doing it as quickly as possible, but most importantly, we have to make sure we’re doing it safe,” said Marie Lewis, who works with NASA.
During Boeing’s test next week, Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and altitude control thrusters will fire, pushing the spacecraft approximately 1-mile into the air.
The spacecraft’s crew module will use parachutes with landing airbags to touch down, then it will be recovered for analysis.
In just a couple of weeks, Boeing will roll out its Starliner at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station ahead of its unmanned test flight to the ISS on Dec. 17.
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