Saturday, April 11, 2015

Boeing's CST-100 Spacecraft Makes a Big Splash

Boeing's CST100 capsule makes a big splash on Apr. 9 at NASA Langley's hydro impact basin, testing abort scenarios. Credit: NASA/Boeing

Boeing's CST-100 crew capsule is supposed to touch down on land when it carries crews of astronauts back down to Earth from the International Space Station — but NASA still wants to make sure the spaceship will be shipshape in the event of an emergency water landing. So, on Thursday, a CST-100 prototype was put through its watery paces during a drop into a glorified swimming pool at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia.

How did the test turn out? NASA reported in a tweet that the capsule made a "big splash" in Langley's Hydro Impact Basin. No astronauts were inside the capsule for Thursday's test — but one day, that'll change.

Thursday's abort test is part of the effort to develop U.S.-made "space taxis" capable of carrying astronauts to and from the space station — and avoid having to pay the Russians upwards of $70 million a seat for rides into orbit. While the Boeing Co. builds and tests the CST-100, SpaceX is working on a crew-carrying version of its Dragon capsule. If those two companies stay on schedule, aided by $6.8 billion in support from NASA, both the CST-100 and the Dragon will be making a splash in space by 2017.

The CST-100 can carry up to seven people and will fly people to low-Earth orbit destinations such as the International Space Station and Bigelow Aerospace’s planned space station.

The spacecraft will launch on the Atlas V rocket. The CST-100 is launch vehicle agnostic, which means it can also launch on other rockets.


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