Spaceflight Insider

Boeing’s CST-100 ‘Starliner’ does well in tests

Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule Langley Research Center NASA photo posted on SpaceFlight Insider

Boeing Starliner drop test. (Click for full view.) Photo Credit: NASA

NASA touted the recent successful airbag tests that Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule performed at the space agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, on Feb. 9. Through a statement posted by NASA on Feb. 17, the agency highlighted the latest effort to have NASA astronauts fly to low-Earth orbit via commercially-provided spacecraft.

In terms of the Starliner, the capsule-based vehicle’s airbag system was put through its paces at Langley’s 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin.

During the test, Starliner’s six landing bags were inflated before the full-sized test article of the spacecraft was lifted into the air by a crane at a height and angle that would somewhat replicate what it might encounter during an ascent abort scenario.

The airbags were produced by ILC Dover and were already inflated when the test article was released.

When all was said and done, the objective of the test was to have Starliner’s airbag, as well as its “up-righting” systems, be granted flight qualification status. Part of the rationale behind a water-based landing test (Starliner is planned to touchdown on land) is to ensure that the spacecraft has been tested out for all potential landing surfaces.

NASA has been working with several companies to have commercially-produced spacecraft transport astronauts to-and-from the International Space Station since 2010. In September of 2014, NASA announced that Boeing’s CST-100 (since named Starliner) and SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft would progress to the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability phase of CCP. Since that time, the two companies have been working to carry out test flights as early as 2017.

Video courtesy of Langley Research Center


Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology,, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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