Editor's Note: The test took place at 9:15 am EST (1415 GMT). We will be releasing an updated story shortly.
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A capsule of the Boeing Starliner crew is fired from a bleacher on a kilometer-long test flight at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico early Monday to validate the spaceship's emergency engines the International Space Station next year.
The capsule will not fly an astronaut on Monday when it takes off on a fast-paced White Sands test flight that lasts only 95 seconds from takeoff to landing.
But there will be a lot going on during the flight, a so-called pad-abort test, testing the Abort engines, control jets, flight software, launching gear and parachutes of the Starliner spacecraft MST (9am EST; 1
"I call this an ejection seat for a spaceship," said Chris F. Erguson, a Boeing test pilot, astronaut and director of Starliner crew and mission systems.
The pad crash test will show that the Starliner "can quickly break away from the launcher and gain distance if things go wrong," Ferguson said. 22 in a panel discussion at the International Astronautical Congress in Washington.
Ferguson flies on the first manned mission of the Starliner, a test flight scheduled to launch next year. The Starliner service module would base the craft in the event of a failure on the launch pad of Cape Canaveral, headed by the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 Transport the rocket. The Monday morning set pad demolition test will prove that the Starliner's escape system is up to the challenge.
Mile-range capability to remove the vehicle and place it safely in a desert environment for the White Sands test, but what would be right off the coast of Florida if we actually had a launch crash?
] "A lot of everything we've been working on for the past eight years is summed up in a 90-second test, so it's going to be pretty exciting," Ferguson said.
Boeing develops the spacecraft Starliner under a contract with NASA over 4.2 billion US dollars. The Space Agency also awarded SpaceX a $ 2.6 billion contract to develop the Crew Dragon spacecraft. This gave NASA two new commercial capsules for the flight of astronauts to the space station, making the US no longer dependent on Russian Soyuz vehicles.
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"This is a full Starliner. Said Alicia Evans, Boeing's leader of the Pad Abort test flight, in a NASA podcast last week. "It's designed specifically for this test and as we've tested the integrated system, it's all up for the pad-abort test required systems and full avionics capability, propulsion. "
On Monday morning, a command triggers specially designed valves Opens quickly in the Starliner service module and a high-pressure mixture of liquid hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants crashes four launch breakers (LAEs) – the chemical propellants automatically burn on mixing and produce 40,000 pounds of thrust from each of the Aerojet Rocketdyne engines.
The engines, along with the thrust of smaller orbital maneuvers and attitude control rockets (OMACs), drive the 16.5-foot ( 5 meters) Starliner vehicle above ground, a Boeing spokesman said the capsule would experience a sustained 5 Gs power for five seconds as the launch abort engines fire. The same force under which astronauts would stand off the launch pad during a real crash.
The Starliner capsule is scheduled for Monday The Pad Breakdown Test is mounted on the same adapter that connects the real spaceship to the top of the ULA Atlas 5 rocket. When the vehicle ignites its four start-stop motors, the ventilation doors on the adapter open to prevent over-pressure.
"On the launch pad, the rocket is standing next to its portal," Evans said. "They have a launcher adapter, a structural hardware that adapts the launcher to the Starliner. So we create an interface to it. Then the Starliner sits on the rocket. And we have a service module and a crew module, the (combined) Starliner.
"If there would be a rocket crash during a crash and we had to rescue the crew, what would happen? It is true that we have four large takeoff engines that work in conjunction with several smaller engines, the so-called Engines for orbital maneuvers and attitude control to be detonated? Said Evans. "And this combined accumulation of engines lifts the Starliner away from the rocket and out of the rubble or blast zones that could be produced by a rocket."
During the Monday test, the demolition engines are detonated for 5.1 seconds and propel the Starliner
Then the engines will pulsate to spin the spaceship and initially fly the stern on an arc that turns the vehicle onto a star maximum altitude of about 1,349 meters above ground brings level about 18.6 seconds after takeoff.
The engines stop firing 17 seconds after launch, and a series of pilots, drogues and three main parachutes will be deployed at T + plus 20 seconds, according to Boeing.
The vehicle will stop its service module at T + plus 34 seconds to fall to the ground. The crew module then releases the lower heat shield and inflates the airbags to dampen the landing of the capsule in White Sands about 95 seconds after takeoff.
"This is a complete demonstration of our country sequence," said Evans. "We did a lot of testing of our landing sequence with subsystems to show which component worked individually. In addition to our propulsion system protecting the crew from the missile, the second half of the demolition test is land-based landing, as would be the case with an actual return from the flight.
In an actual space mission, the Starliner's service module is dropped into space by the crew module and burned upon re-entry into the atmosphere. Engineers will be given a video tracking of the shedding system's function and observations of the heat shield separation events during the pad demolition test.
The service module on the test flight on Monday crashes to the ground. The remaining propellant in the service module, which contains all the engines used for the crash test, could cause an impact in an impact, the Boeing officials said.
"We'll actually see our parachutes unfold and inflate. Referees let it rise and see the crew module float down," Evans said. "As we approach the ground, we see the heat shield bottom loosen, exposing our airbags, and as we approach the ground, the airbags inflate."
"This is demonstrated for the first time as an onboard accessory in the air ", she said. "So I'm really curious to see how it all happens, and then it lands under parachutes, on airbags and on land – this is the first American vehicle to do so."
SpaceX completed the pad demolition test for its Crew Dragon spaceship at Cape Canaveral in 2015 and plans to test a crash test during flight at the Kennedy Space Center to test the capsule's ability to fire a Falcon 9 rocket after takeoff. Boeing plans to circumvent such a demolition demonstration during the flight.
NASA gave both companies the opportunity to decide if a crash test should be performed during the flight.
"Boeing will not conduct a crash test during the flight," said Jon Cowart, deputy head of Mission Management Office for NASA's Commercial Occupation Program. "They're just going to take the first step, they think they can retrieve enough data and then extrapolate it with good analysis techniques that we've supported, and you'll do it this way, unlike SpaceX, the will do both.
"We knew from the beginning, both Boeing and SpaceX, when they proposed their contracts and said, 'That's how we're going to make real flights,' Cowart said in a NASA poll last week. Podcast "We got it right and got involved in it, we think and agree that we can get everything they need with a pad-abort test."
Kathy Lueders, who is the commercial crew program at NASA, called the Boeing Pad abortion "a great test for us."
"Of course it will be important for us to understand how the separation for the CM and the SM (crew module and service module) works to override the chutes Check and ensure that the predictions are properly aligned for us, "Lueders said Wednesday during a presentation to the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Council.
Boeing is in the final stages of building and testing two space-capable Starliner vehicles in a former Space Shuttle hangar at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
The launch of the first capsules is scheduled for December 17 aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Pad 41 of the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a one-week test flight without a pilot to the space station. This mission, called Orbital Test Flight, will not have an active demolition system, but Lueders said NASA wants to see the Starliner perform the crash test before proceeding with the OFT mission.
"OFT does not have a demolition system on it because it is an unoccupied mission, but obviously the way the system partitions and everything else will affect our OFT progress. Therefore, it is crucial for us to initiate and understand this test before we roll out the spaceship (for OFT), "said Lueders on Wednesday.
The Starliner's Crew Flight Test for Space Station will follow for some time in the first half of 2020, along with Ferguson and NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann.
During the final preparations For the pad-abort test in New Mexico this weekend, Boeing technicians were deployed at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to prepare the first space-capable Starliner spaceship for refueling. Later this month, it will be installed on the Atlas 5 rocket at Cape Canaveral to complete the final integrated check-outs and a full countdown trial prior to mid-December scheduled launch.
The new crew capsules of Boeing and SpaceX could be ready to fly in the first half of next year, according to NASA officials.
The commercial occupation program is a new paradigm for NASA. Boeing and SpaceX are responsible, but since NASA is the only customer for the new spaceships, the government still has a big say in the implementation of the program by the contractors.
"You own the flight tests," Cowart said. "Even if they start flying up in the space station, they own the spaceship, they own the rocket. But these special tests – they belong to them, which means we consult with them, but in the end they are the ones who have the tests and the results.
"This is part of their certification," he said. "You have to bring the data from these tests to us before they can fly our astronauts aboard, and we have to say yes, you have the right amount of data and the data is good and the vehicle will work properly." But … that is Something different from NASA has done business in the past, we do not own the rocket, we do not own the spaceship … It's more than consultation and less than ownership. "
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