Spaceport America has announced a successful Boeing CST-100 Starliner parachute system test launch from its horizontal launch complex, the spaceport said.
In collaboration with teams from Boeing and White Sands Missile Range, a giant helium-filled balloon lifted off from Spaceport America in New Mexico, carrying a flight-sized boilerplate Starliner spacecraft up to about 40,000 feet where it floated across the San Andres Mountains for a parachute landing on the other side.
Data collected from these tests will be used to verify the parachute inflation characteristics and landing system performance, as well as the altitude and descent rate of the Starliner at touchdown.
The results of these mission-critical tests will confirm that the Starliner´s parachute system can stabilize and decelerate the crew module to a nominal terminal descent velocity, such that a landing on the Earth´s surface can be safely accomplished.
Boeing´s Crew Space Transportation CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is being developed in collaboration with NASA´s Commercial Crew Program. The Starliner was designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit.
For NASA service missions to the International Space Station, it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew members and time-critical scientific research. The Starliner has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. It also features wireless Internet and tablet technology for crew interfaces.
Spaceport America is a purpose-built commercial spaceport. The FAA-licensed launch complex, situated on 18,000 acres adjacent to the US Army White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico, boasts 6,000 square miles of restricted airspace, low population density, a 12,000-foot spaceway, and 340+ days of sunshine and low humidity.