Boeing's Starliner to go through Pad Abort test today: Where and when to watch it live

The test is designed to verify that each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately, but also together to protect astronauts.

Boeing, as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, is preparing to take astronauts into space. Today, they will be taking one step closer to complete that goal. The spacecraft will be subjected to a Pad Abort test at 7.30 pm IST today, 4 Nov, from the White Missile Range in New Mexico, for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner. They have a three-hour safety window to conduct it.

Boeing, along with SpaceX, is part of NASA’s commercial crew program. This program is about NASA working along with private American aerospace companies to launch American astronauts into the Low Earth Orbit and the International Space Station. By using commercial spacecraft to transport their crew, NASA will free up resources to focus on the research and building of spacecraft for deep space missions.

The main goal of this test flight is to demonstrate the end-to-end functionality of Starliner’s integrated launch abort system. This spacecraft is designed to be capable of a safe abort during all phases of flight, from the launch pad to on-orbit operations.

 Boeings Starliner to go through Pad Abort test today: Where and when to watch it live

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and its service module sit atop the test stand at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico ahead of the company’s Pad Abort Test. Image credit: NASA

The test is designed to verify that each of Starliner’s systems will function not only separately but also together, to protect astronauts by carrying them safely away from the launch pad in the unlikely event of an emergency prior to liftoff.

During the test, Starliner will ignite its four launch abort engines, each producing around 18,200 kg of thrust. Those thrusters, along with the Orbital Manoeuvring and Attitude (OMAC) thrusters, will fire for just under five seconds, and then Starliner will continue to use its OMAC thrusters to manoeuvre and reorient in the air. During the test, Starliner will gain nearly 1,300 meters in altitude and fly around 1,600 meters in distance away from the launch site.

Post this, the parachute deployment sequence occurs, the service module separates, the base heat shield jettisons and the airbags inflate for a soft landing in the New Mexican desert. It will be recovered and brought back to Launch Complex 32 for evaluation and analysis.

Where and when can you watch it online?

Where: A live stream of the launch will be available on both NASA’s and Boeing’s YouTube channels.

When: The live stream will start 10 minutes before the launch is scheduled to take place at 7.20 pm IST.

What are the test objectives?

  • The successful operation of the Launch Abort Engine (LAE) and OMAC systems
  • Demonstrate integration of LAE and OMAC control of spacecraft in atmospheric flight
  • Prove functionality of Guidance, Navigation and Control (GNC) hardware and software
  • Demonstrate successful ordnance events including heat shield separation and parachute deployment
  • Demonstrate successful Crew Module (CM) and Service Module (SM) separation
  • Successful inflation of parachutes and airbag landing system leading to a successful landing
  • Data collection for analysis, validation, model correlation and flight certification
  • Safe post-flight recovery of CM

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