Boeing Tests its Starliner but a Parachute Fails to Deploy

James Marshall
November 6, 2019

Under a programme called Artemis, the White House wants to return humans to the Moon by 2024.

The two-stage launched would launch on the enhanced Block 1B version of the rocket, which uses the more powerful Exploration Upper Stage (EUS), and go into lunar orbit. SpaceX was also among the chosen companies for this project. Likewise, the crewed Apollo missions to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s required only one lift-off.

Finally, the Starliner's service module separated from the crew module and the latter touched down with a cushion of inflated airbags about a mile north of the test stand, approximately 90 seconds after the launch.

Using the more powerful block 1B variant of the SLS, Boeing says a lunar landing can been carried out with just five "mission critical events" instead of almost a dozen required by competing designs that might require the use of Gateway and multiple launches with less-powerful commercial rockets.

Nasa previously said its preferred option was a lunar lander split into three stages, but it left the door open to "alternative, innovative approaches". The parachutes are created to slow down the capsules when they return to Earth at supersonic speeds.

This, it said, would further reduce the launches needed for a mission and simplify the steps required for a successful landing. According to the company, the lander will be ready in time for the first Artemis moon landing mission in 2024, but it's unclear if the 1B variant booster will also be ready by then.

NASA envisions a system that includes a transfer vehicle to ferry a lander from a lunar-orbiting Gateway outpost to an orbit that's closer to the moon, a descent element that would put astronauts onto the surface, and an ascent element that would carry them back to the Gateway.

Boeing is one of the companies that NASA had selected to design and develop a spacecraft that would transport USA astronauts to the International Space Station.

This approach shortens development time and lowers risk, enabling NASA to safely land on the moon's surface by 2024, it says. After docking with a small, remotely assembled space station known as Gateway, two astronauts would transfer to a commercially-built lander and descend to a touchdown near the moon's south pole.

He argued that NASA should focus on SLS, including the Block 1B version, and Orion spacecraft, as well as a payload shroud for the SLS that could accommodate a lunar lander.

Last month, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos announced the formation of a "national team" that would make a separate bid to build the lander for 2024.

But a design developed by Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman - unveiled by Bezos on October 22 - calls for what amounts to a three-stage lander: a so-called transfer stage to first lower the ship's altitude from Gateway's high orbit; a descent stage for landing on the surface; and an ascent stage, carrying the crew, for the trip back up to Gateway.

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