Boeing has successfully conducted a pad abort test of its Crew Space Transportation (CST)-100 Starliner spacecraft, marking a critical milestone in the programme.

The test was conducted from Launch Complex 32 at the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. It is part of Nasa’s Commercial Crew Program and designed to simulate a launch pad emergency.

During the two-minute test, an uncrewed Starliner spacecraft lifted off from the test stand using its own power.

Prior to lifting off, Starliner’s four launch abort engines (LAEs) and multiple orbital manoeuvring and attitude control (OMAC) thrusters fired up and generated 190,000lb of thrust to push the spacecraft up and away from the test stand.

After take-off, it flew a mile above land in under 20 seconds and then deployed forward heat shield and parachutes.

The spacecraft’s crew module separated around 34 seconds into the test and used parachutes with landing airbags to touch down. The landing took place 95 seconds after the abort engines fired.

The company claimed that Starliner successfully demonstrated the manoeuvre and performance of a range of integrated systems required to propel the capsule away from its Atlas V launch vehicle at any point before lift-off.

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Boeing pad abort test flight director Alicia Evans said: “We’ve tested all these systems individually, so we know the propulsion system fires at the intended levels, and we know the parachutes can support the vehicle and safely slow it down, but the real test is making sure those systems can perform together. That’s when you know these systems are ready to fly people.”

In April, the CST-100 Starliner cleared its environmental test campaign at Boeing’s Space Environment Test Facility in El Segundo, California.

Starliner’s crew module will now be recovered and brought back to Launch Complex 32 for evaluation and analysis.