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Landing Test: Boeing’s Commercial Crew Capsule for Space Station

A Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft floats down into the Delamar Dry Lake Bed near Alamo, Nevada Credit: Boeing

A commercial crew space transportation capsule made a step forward on April 3, parachuting into a desert landscape.

The Boeing Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 spacecraft floated down into the Delamar Dry Lake Bed near Alamo, Nevada – a first test of a fully combined vehicle landing system, including parachutes and airbags for a smooth touchdown.

“This successful test is a tremendous milestone that brings Boeing one step closer to completing development of a system that will provide safe, reliable and affordable crewed access to space,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Programs in a press statement.

CST-100 is part of the Boeing Commercial Crew Transportation System (CCTS), intended to provide the United States with the capability to transport people and cargo to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program.

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A helicopter lifted the CST-100 test article to about 11,000 feet and released the CST-100 test capsule. Quickly following the drop, three main parachutes deployed to successfully slow the capsule’s descent before six airbags inflated for the capsule’s desert landing, according to a Boeing statement.

Partnered with the Boeing Commercial Crew team is Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada.

Bigelow Aerospace is a Boeing customer, with plans to use the spacecraft for transportation to and from projected Bigelow on-orbit and leasable expandable modules.

The just-concluded test will be followed by other tests to be performed in 2012. They include a landing air bag test series in May, a forward heat shield jettison test in June, and an orbital maneuvering/attitude control engine hot fire test in June – all to gather additional data on key functional elements of the spacecraft design.

The seven-person CST-100 is a reusable, capsule-shaped spacecraft. On tap to boost the craft into low Earth orbit is the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V launcher. It will be used for initial CST-100 test flights in 2015-16, according to Boeing.

By Leonard David

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