Boeing successfully tested a safety system of its commercial spacecraft Monday morning, bringing the U.S. aerospace industry one step closer to launching astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time since 2011.
The company ran an uncrewed test on the launch abort system of the CST-100 Starliner, a 16.5-foot spacecraft that can carry up to seven people, in New Mexico. It was a long-anticipated milestone for a company that has been under fire for two fatal plane crashes.
The capsule blasted off from its support platform and soared thousands of feet into the air above the White Sands Missile Range. Less than two minutes later, it was gliding back down to Earth. While one of its main parachutes appeared to malfunction, two deployed and the spacecraft landed safely.
Boeing officials said they have built in redundancy to the spacecraft, and having two of three parachutes deploy was good enough. "The test team and spacecraft performed flawlessly," said John Mulholland, Starliner program manager.
NASA broadcast live coverage of the test on its website. The safety test was meant to demonstrate whether the part of the spacecraft that carries the crew would be able to successfully detach itself from a malfunctioning rocket in the case of an emergency.
The Atlas V is the rocket that is expected to eventually launch the Starliner on a crewed mission to the International Space Station.