At NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico, Boeing recently completed live-fire tests of the complex array of thrusters that will be used to guide the seven-passenger spacecraft in orbit and provide propulsion for the emergency abort system. The successful trials now open the way to full abort testing and the first unmanned orbital flight.
During the trials of the hydrazine monopropellant engines built by Rocketdyne, the technicians used a Starliner service module equipped with a full propulsion system that included fuel tanks, helium tanks for pressurization, the reaction control system thrusters, orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters, and launch abort engines. In addition, the module was installed with the requisite fuel lines and avionics.
The tests were intended to simulate conditions that the craft will meet in orbital flight and included the firing of 19 thrusters to simulate in-space maneuvering, 12 to simulate a high-altitude abort, and the firing of all 22 thruster elements to simulate a low-altitude abort.
"With the safety of our astronauts at the forefront of all we do, this successful testing proves this system will work correctly and keep Starliner and the crew safe through all phases of flight," says John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Program. "The milestone paves the way for the upcoming pad abort test and flights to and from the International Space Station later this year."
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