Engine anomaly during the tests to cause another setback in Boeing's commercial space vehicle program
Chicago - On July 21, Boeing confirmed that it experienced an anomaly during the launch test of the abort engines for its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle which will carry astronauts to the International Space Station.
The company said that the incident occurred during a hot-fire test of the launch-abort engines used by Starliner’s abort system, integrated into a spacecraft service module at the White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico in June.
The engines successfully ignited and ran for the full duration,the company said in a statement.
During engine shutdown, an anomaly occurred that resulted in a propellant leak.
The abort test is a necessary part of the certification process of the space vehicle. It enables the spacecraft to pull rapidly away from its Atlas 5 launch vehicle in case of an emergency during liftoff or ascent into space.
Boeing didn’t elaborate on the nature of the problem, but the company believes an operational fix will be enough to solve the problem rather than a significant rework.
The issue is likely to cause another setback for the program that has already faced several problems. Boeing plans uncrewed and crewed demonstration flights to take place by the end of 2018.
On the other side, the rival SpaceX is ramping up for further tests of its Crew Dragon, an improved version of the Dragon spacecraft that’s already being used for uncrewed cargo transport missions to the International Space Station.
Earlier this month, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon arrived in Florida for pre-launch preparations before an uncrewed demonstration mission.