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Boeing's spacecraft completes landing test

Charles Black, Founder and CEO of Sen
May 7, 2012, 7:00 UTC

Sen—The spacecraft being developed by Boeing, the Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100, has completed another successful parachute drop test. 

The CST-100 capsule was lifted to 14,000 feet by helicopter and dropped. The parachutes deployed successfully and the capsule descended smoothly to its landing site, cushioned by six inflated air bags. This was the second successful parachute drop test in recent weeks. 

"This second parachute drop test validates Boeing's innovative system architecture and deployment plan," said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Programs. "Boeing's completion of this milestone reaffirms our commitment to provide safe, reliable and affordable crewed access to space."

Boeing has now achieved 40 milestones in the development of the CST-100. The development program will see further tests this year including a heat shield jettison test and an orbital manoeuvering control engine hot fire test that will provide more data on key elements of the spacecraft's design.

Boeing has received funding from NASA to assist with development under NASA's Commercial Crew Development Program (CCDev).

Boeing is one of several U.S. companies developing spacescraft to carry astronauts to low Earth orbit including the space station. The spacecraft is being designed to carry up to 7 astronauts, or a combination of astronauts and cargo.

The tests were carried out with help from Bigelow Aerospace, a customer of Boeing and a partner for commercial space. 

Bigelow Aerospace founder and president Robert T. Bigelow said "We're thrilled to see the robust progress that is being made via the Commercial Crew program. This successful test provides further proof that the commercial crew initiative represents the most expeditious, safe and affordable means of getting America flying in space again."

Bigelow plan to use the CST-100 to ferry customers to and from its planned Bigelow Orbiting Space Complex.

The CST-100 has been designed to be compatible with several rocket launchers. For test flights scheduled in 2015-16 Boeing will use the Atlas V rocket operated by United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between The Boeing Company and Lockheed Martin that was formed in December 2006.

Artist illustration of Boeing CST-100 atop an Atlas V rocket
Boeing's CST-100 atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas rocket (artist illustration). Credit: Boeing

"Boeing's parachute demonstrations are a clear sign NASA is moving in the right direction of enabling the American aerospace transportation industry to flourish under this partnership" NASA's Commercial Crew Program Manager Ed Mango said. "The investments we're making now are enabling this new path forward of getting our crews to LEO and potentially the space station as soon as possible."

The CST-100 is also being designed to launch aboard other rockets including United Launch Alliance's Delta IV, ATK's Liberty and SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, as pictured below in an artist's illustration.

Artist illustration of Boeing CST-100 atop a SpaceX rocket
Boeing's CST-100 atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket (artist illustration). Credit: Boeing

It is expected that the CST-100 will begin flight tests in 2015 and enter commercial service with a flight to the space station in 2016.

Boeing's space business is operated by Boeing Defense, Space & Security, a division of The Boeing Company. Headquartered in St. Louis, Boeing Defense, Space & Security is a $32 billion business with 62,000 employees worldwide.