Boeing may have suffered a setback with Starliner’s pad abort test

Enlarge / In January 2018, Boeing shared this photo of the Starliner Pad Abort Test and Orbital Flight Test vehicles under construction in Florida. (credit: Boeing)

A serious issue appears to have occurred during preparations for Boeing's test of the Starliner spacecraft and its launch abort system, three sources have told Ars. However, a company spokeswoman for the Starliner program did not respond to multiple requests for comment on the test, which was due to take place in White Sands, New Mexico, about three weeks ago.

The pad abort test is a necessary part of certifying spacecraft for flight, as it ensures the ability of the spacecraft to pull rapidly away from its rocket in the case of some emergency during liftoff or ascent into space. One person familiar with the incident in New Mexico said, "This is why you test these things now, rather than with people on board."

Despite the lack of information from Boeing, industry sources indicated that some kind of failure occurred prior to the test, damaging some of the infrastructure at the test site.

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