Crews use Boeing training capsule to practice search, rescue at sea for 1st time

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — Days after a SpaceX mishap sent smoke up into the air along Florida's Space Coast, another commercial partner of NASA was working on plans to launch astronauts from U.S. soil again.

Boeing is still months away from its first uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station, but astronaut rescue training is underway should the need ever arise.

Channel 9's Melonie Holt was at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Army Wharf on Tuesday to watch U.S. Air Force pararescue teams practiced reaching a capsule, stabilizing it and removing its crew members.


The rescue teams used a training capsule of the Boeing CST-100 Starliner, which the company is developing to ferry astronauts to the ISS as part of NASA's commercial crew program.

The agency's other partner, SpaceX, will fly its own capsule, the Crew Dragon, atop a Falcon 9 Block 5 rocket.

SpaceX successfully completed an unmanned test flight to the ISS before that vehicle suffered a setback and experienced an "anomaly" during a static test fire Saturday that could delay the company's first manned test flight.

Boeing is targeting August for its first uncrewed flight aboard a ULA Atlas V.

Unlike the Crew Dragon, which was designed to splashdown, the Starliner will return to Earth on land in a 15-square-mile safe zone, unless a situation necessitates a water landing.

"It's very significant, very important that the crew knows that there's a rescue capability and a force that's been trained and prepared," said U.S. Air Force Maj. Marcus Maris.

The U.S. Department of Defense's Human Space Flight Support Office Rescue Division has supported all NASA human spaceflight programs and will now be on standby for both the commercial crew program and NASA's Orion deep space exploration program.

"Our part is the easy part compared to everything else that's going on," said U.S. Air Force Capt. Paul Fry, the 304th Rescue Squadron assistant director of operations. "We'll definitely be ready."

The training will continue Wednesday when rescue crews move from the basin to the ocean.

DOWNLOAD: Free WFTV News & Weather Apps

Not near a TV? Click here to watch WFTV newscasts live

Watch Live: Doppler 9 HD