Boeing’s Starliner launch abort system put to test

Test held at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico

Boeing livestreamed a critical test of its Starliner astronauts capsule Monday at the request of NASA.

The pad abort test happened at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was part of the process to certify Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to carry astronauts as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

On Monday, Starliner fired all four launch abort engines to test the system that will get the crew safely away from the rocket in the event of a launch failure.

"The pad abort test is really going to prove that capability that if there were an emergency with the rocket on the launch pad, we could get them about a mile up and a mile out in a matter of seconds," Boeing Communications Manager Rebecca Regan said.

"At my request, Monday’s Commercial Crew Starliner pad abort test will be broadcast live," Bridenstine said last week. "Transparency for the taxpayer."

NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX in 2014 to develop independent astronaut spacecraft. The U.S. space agency has been paying Russia more than $84 million a seat to fly its astronauts to the space station since the end of the space shuttle program.

When asked if NASA has asked both SpaceX and Boeing for any other measures to insure transparency for taxpayers, a spokesman said all upcoming flight tests will be broadcast.

"NASA and our commercial partners, Boeing and SpaceX, plan to broadcast all upcoming flight tests as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program," NASA spokesman Joshua Finch said in an email to News 6.

Boeing is targeting Dec. 17 to launch Starliner on its first test flight without crew from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on a United Launch Alliance Rocket.

SpaceX previously streamed a pad abort test of the Crew Dragon capsule in 2015, along with other tests including the Crew Dragon's first launch on a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station in March, known as the Demo-1 flight.

The Crew Dragon used for Demo-1 was later destroyed during a test fire at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. SpaceX has made changes to the vehicle following an investigation of the explosion.

The first crewed flight of Crew Dragon could happen by the end of the year, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk said last month during Bridenstine's visit to SpaceX headquarters in California.

However, both companies must successfully complete testing before NASA certifies Crew Dragon and Starliner to launch astronauts.

Dale Ketcham, of Florida's Spaceport authority, Space Florida, said it's hard to say which company will launch astronauts first.

"They've both had their accidents and both of them are behind schedule in the eyes of the administrator," Ketcham said. "The first one to work effectively, they win. But more importantly, America wins because then we're not relying on the Russians."

Get up to speed on Commercial Crew, Artemis and more with the interactive below:

About the Authors:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.