A test version of the CST-100 Starliner — Boeing’s Crew Space Transportation vehicle — will soon begin a series of “hot fire” tests at NASA’s White Sand Facility in New Mexico. Boeing is building the Starliner for NASA to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station, with a first crewed flight test scheduled for next year.
The Starliner houses a single propulsion system that supports all the spacecraft’s propulsion needs from ascent until deorbit burn after its departure from the space station. System capabilities will include maneuvering in space, or contingency abort scenarios, a feature that distinguishes Starliner from its Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and space shuttle predecessors.
The testing campaign will consist of simulated propellant flow rates for all mission scenarios; a fuel-loading demonstration; and hot fire tests that will include orbital maneuvers like docking with the space station, abort scenarios, and re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.
The test module is one of three Starliner qualification test vehicles, including the structural test article, which is undergoing lab tests in Huntington Beach, Calif., and Spacecraft 1, which will be ground-tested before flying a simulated abort from a launch pad over the New Mexico desert.