CST-100 Starliner reentry thrusters delivered
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is expected to have its first test flight sometime later in 2018. To support that test, Aerojet Rocketdyne has completed the delivery of the crew module’s reentry thrusters.
The thrusters were delivered to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (formerly Orbiter Processing Facility 3) at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Boeing technicians will integrate the 12 MR-104J engines into the spacecraft, which is designed to be used up to 10 times.
“Astronaut safety is paramount at Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is why we are providing a reliable propulsion system for the Starliner crew module to ensure a safe re-entry for all of Starliner’s passengers,” said Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake in a press release.
The MR-104J engines will be used to ensure the capsule is properly oriented during reentry. Each produces more than 100 pounds (45-kilograms) of thrust, according to Aerojet Rocketdyne. Additionally, the thruster engines are reusable.
Aerojet Rocketdyne said it is also providing the launch abort engines, the service module reaction control thrusters, and service module orbital maneuvering and attitude control engines for Starliner.
Starliner is being developed under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It is designed to send up to seven people, or a mix of crew and payload, to the International Space Station or other future destinations in low-Earth orbit. For NASA space station crew change missions, Starliner will carry up to four astronauts.
The first uncrewed test flight of Starliner is expected to occur no earlier than late-August with the first crewed flight likely in 2019.
SpaceX is also developing a vehicle for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Its Crew Dragon is also expected to have its first unpiloted test flight in August. Its first flight with people will also likely occur in 2019.
A 360-degree animation of an Atlas V launching Starliner. Video courtesy of United Launch Alliance
Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a website about human spaceflight called Orbital Velocity. You can find him on twitter @TheSpaceWriter.