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Navigating a ‘storm’ essential to astronaut safety

In an emergency, every bit of preparation counts. That’s why engineers and technicians gathered at dusk March 23 at a construction site near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for two dynamic rounds of testing.Their mission: To show the CST-100 Starliner water deluge system covers the Crew Access Arm adequately, and that LEDlights are up to the task of helping guide astronauts to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad. Boeing’s CST-100 system will provide NASA with transportation to and from the International Space Station. The Crew Access Arm is what astronauts will use to board or exit the spacecraft.”We have to prove to NASA that we are able to get astronauts out of an emergency situation quickly and efficiently before our first crew flight test,” said Chris Ferguson, deputy manager and director of Crew and Mission Operations for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Part of that is knowing that they’ll be able to navigate through the ’storm’ of a deluge system that sprays hundreds of gallons of water on the Crew Access Arm in a very short period of time.”The testing, performed by Starliner suppliers United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Hensel Phelps, mimicked what the system would need to do at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) in a variety of lighting conditions. Initial results show the system performed as planned. The arm and attached White Room will serve as a bridge between the Crew Access Tower— which already is in place at SLC-41 — and the Starliner spacecraft as it stands atop a ULA Atlas V rocket. After additional off-site testing at Sauer Inc., the arm will move to the launch pad this summer before being lifted into place on the tower. The integrated systems, including the water deluge system, will be retested and verified before operational use.Starliner’s first crewed flight test to the International Space Station will be Boeing’s first commercial flight transporting humans to that destination.
Crew Access Arm for CST-100 Spotlight

Hundreds of gallons of water douse the CST-100 Starliner Crew Access Arm during a test of its water deluge system. (NASA photo)