Boeing shows off Starliner test ahead of launch this summer

In the race to ready a commercial crew capsule for trips to the International Space Station (ISS), SpaceX and Boeing have been conducting various tests on their respective parachute systems that are tasked with bringing the space vehicles safely back to Earth.

Keen to throw the spotlight on its ongoing work, Boeing has just released a short video (below) showing some behind-the-scenes footage of its CST-100 Starliner capsule undergoing a recent parachute test in which it was dropped from a high-altitude balloon.

“It’s part of our path to qualify the entire landing system to fly NASA astronauts,” Boeing said in a tweet accompanying the video.

Both Boeing and SpaceX have been contracted by NASA to create systems to ferry astronauts between Earth and the ISS.

While SpaceX continues to work on its Dragon 2 crew capsule, Chicago-based Boeing has been developing the Starliner. Designed for returning to land rather than sea, the capsule can hold up to seven astronauts and be reused up to 10 times.

Boeing was due to launch its first uncrewed Starliner test flight in March 2019 but postponed it because of scheduling pressures. The capsule’s debut outing has now been set for August when it’ll be taken skyward on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s efforts have been gathering pace after it docked its Crew Dragon capsule — sans astronauts for the test trip — with the ISS in March 2019, marking the first mission to the space station of a commercially built and operated American rocket and spacecraft designed to carry humans. The capsule made a successful return to Earth a week later.

But it hasn’t all been plain sailing for the two companies, and there are clearly important issues that still need to be resolved. SpaceX, for example, recently revealed that the same Crew Dragon that returned from the ISS was later destroyed by an engine anomaly during a ground-based test firing of its thrusters at Cape Canaveral. In addition, a House subcommittee hearing last week revealed the failure of a SpaceX Crew Dragon parachute test that took place last month. “One of the four parachutes was set up not to open, but the other three failed to open fully, causing a test sled to hit the ground faster than intended and damaging it,” Space News reported.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, NASA official Bill Gerstenmaier noted that Boeing’s parachute testing program has also suffered issues along the way, though he acknowledged that both companies have been making “tremendous progress for their respective parachute design and test campaigns.”

Emerging Tech

Life after launch: Inside the massive effort to preserve NASA’s space artifacts

The Apollo 11 mission put a man on the moon, but NASA didn’t necessarily preserve every step of the process. Researchers are trying to rescue the history on Earth and on the moon.
Emerging Tech

Three new astronauts join the International Space Station crew for Expedition 60

Exactly fifty years after Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, a new team of astronauts from NASA, Roscosmos, and ESA have arrived at the International Space Station to begin their stay there.
Emerging Tech

Watch SpaceX’s parachute tests for its soon-to-be-manned Crew Dragon capsule

SpaceX is currently developing its Crew Dragon capsule to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station. Now, a new video shows the parachute systems for the capsules being tested.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk says SpaceX’s Starship can land on the moon by 2021

SpaceX boss Elon Musk said recently that he believes its Starship spacecraft can land on the moon by 2021, adding that he hopes his company can help to build a "permanently occupied lunar base" there.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX finally knows what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode

SpaceX and NASA say they finally know what caused its Crew Dragon capsule to explode during an April test of the spacecraft’s thruster system. It's now unlikely that the capsule will be used for crewed spaceflight before the end of the…
Emerging Tech

A.I. cameras could help stomp out wildfires before they become disastrous

This summer marks one year since California’s deadliest and most destructive wildfire season ever. Could cutting-edge technology help avoid future incidents? One startup thinks so.
Emerging Tech

How pioneering pilot Jackie Cochran helped and hurt the Women in Space Program

Before Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman in space, Jackie Cochran funded the Women in Space Program. The pioneering woman pilot never realized her dream of venturing into space.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff! Here are all the moon missions happening in the next decade

The next 10 years are poised to be the most significant in lunar history in decades. What do we have to look forward to? Check out this handy guide to the coming decade of moon missions.
Emerging Tech

From the moon to mass production: 10 pieces of modern tech indebted to Apollo

This article is part of Apollo: A Lunar Legacy, a multi-part series that explores the technological advances behind Apollo 11, their influence on modern day, and what's next for the moon. You may have heard that freeze-dried food was…
Photography

50 years later, the first camera on the moon is still collecting lunar dust

The cameras aboard Apollo 11 captured some of history's most iconic images, including shots of Earth and footprints on the lunar surface. To commemorate the first moon landing, we look back at how Hasselblad's stripped shooters came to be.
Emerging Tech

Mars 2020 rover enters its final year of engineering before launch

The countdown has begun for the last year of development before the Mars 2020 launches between July 17, 2020 and August 5, 2020. Progress on finalizing the rover is right on track, according to NASA.
Emerging Tech

Could Mars’ now-barren Gale Crater lake have once supported life?

The Gale Crater is the site of an ancient lake which existed for millions of years. But even after the lake disappeared, groundwater could have remained for billions of years. Now, a team of scientists is searching for clues of life there.
Emerging Tech

Practically perfect in every way: Hubble shows galaxy with amazing symmetry

This week's Hubble image shows the spiral galaxy NGC 2985, located over 70 million light-years away. Hubble scientists describe NGC 2985 as having near-perfect symmetry, showing tightly wound spiral arms which converge in the center.
Cars

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Wearable chargers and A.I.-enhanced keyboards

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!