SpaceX and Boeing almost ready for commercial crew test

Is the program back on track?

SpaceX and Boeing have started to test their commercial vehicles as they are planning to launch them by early next year. There are some essential tests needed to be carried out for the upcoming crew.

In an Oct. 30 presentation to the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, said that Boeing was still working towards a Nov. 4 pad abort test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that the company announced three weeks earlier.

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Boeing has started on its end to test the launch abort system via its pad abort test on a US Army launchpad in new Mexico. These tests are carried out to verify all the systems of the Starliner, but mainly the tests are concentrated on the protection of astronauts during take-off and landing.

The test, conducted Nov. 4, 2019, was designed to verify that each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately, but in concert, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff.

NASA Press Release
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner’s four launch abort engines and several orbital maneuvering and attitude control thrusters ignite in the company’s Pad Abort Test, pushing the spacecraft away from the test stand with a combined 160,000 pounds of thrust, from Launch Complex 32 on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
Source: NASA

“Tests like this one are crucial to help us make sure the systems are as safe as possible,” said Kathy Lueders, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager. “We are thrilled with the preliminary results, and now we have the job of really digging into the data and analyzing whether everything worked as we expected.”

SpaceX is also conducting static fire tests of the abort capsule for the upcoming Crew Dragon mission and this test is very essential for SpaceX as the capsule exploded last time. SpaceX has done its investigation of the last test and hoping this tie to be successful. Luckily no one was hurt during the incident but SpaceX capsule was destroyed. However, SpaceX is still far ahead of Boeing in the Commercial Crew program, as it has already successfully tested the Crew Dragon in an unnmanded mission to the ISS.

“We’re heading towards an Orbital Flight Test here in October,” said Peter McGrath, director of global sales and marketing for Boeing’s human space exploration program, said Aug. 19. “More than likely, the pad abort test will happen shortly after that, and then we’ll fly the Crew Flight Test vehicle, primarily when NASA’s ready.”

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SpaceX is also planning on manufacturing in space, which could lead to less expensive space exploration. Taking off things from the ground is very expensive; designing and creating stuff in space could come handy. The Commercial Crew program is essential for NASA and the United States, as it would remove their dependence on Russia to get US astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The program is very delayed, and hopefully, the recent expedited development will bring it back on schedule.

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