Boeing reveals why one of its Starliner parachutes failed to deploy

Brittany A. Roston - Nov 8, 2019, 2:41 pm CST
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Boeing reveals why one of its Starliner parachutes failed to deploy

Earlier this week, NASA and Boeing successfully tested the private space company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft during a pad abort test, which was intended to make sure the spacecraft’s systems would function properly in the event of an emergency during launch. The test was declared a success, but the event wasn’t perfect: one of the three parachutes that lowered the capsule failed to deploy, leaving only two to save the spacecraft.

As we previously reported, the pad abort test took place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, where teams worked to launch an uncrewed CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, test that its systems were able to work independently and together, and that the abort system would be able to safely return humans to the surface if something went wrong.

In a statement on Thursday, Boeing said the test was a success; the various systems controlling flight, guidance, and propulsion worked as they were supposed to, the service module separated correctly, and both heat shields functioned as expected.

However, as we see in the video above, only two of the three parachutes installed on the system deployed. Boeing says that underscored the fact that two parachutes are capable of safely lowering the vessel without it suffering any damage — the third parachute is, essentially, a redundancy that helps mitigate unexpected issues like the one during the pad abort test.

It didn’t take long for Boeing’s team to figure out why the parachute didn’t deploy. ‘A lack of a secure connection between pilot and main parachute’ on the third undeployed parachute was the cause of the issue, the company said in a statement. ‘We are taking all appropriate steps to address this issue.’

Boeing is on schedule to conduct an orbital flight test launch on December 17 followed by a crewed flight test next year.


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