In a landing system test, Boeing just dropped its new space capsule from 11,000 feet above the Nevada desert, watching the Apollo-esque craft descend under three massive parachutes. The CST-100 (which really needs a catchier name) is now one step closer to flying to the International Space Station or a future space hotel.
Boeing attached a test version of the CST-100, which stands for Crew Space Transportation, to an Erickson Sky Crane helicopter. The chopper lofted the empty capsule to about 11,000 feet before releasing it, and then three main parachutes unfurled to slow its fall. Before the capsule landed, six airbags inflated to cushion the blow. It was the first drop test of all the future capsule's landing components.
The aerospace giant makes no secret of the craft's Apollo heritage — it's even using its own Apollo-era re-entry and ocean landing data to tweak the designs.
Bigelow Aerospace paid for some of the testing, according to Boeing, punctuating the space destination company's interest in using the CST-100 to get to orbit. Bigelow, the brainchild of hotelier/motelier Robert Bigelow, envisions using inflatable space stations as orbiting labs or other destinations, but the company doesn't have a rocket, so it will need a partner like Boeing.
Boeing is planning another drop test later this month, after engineers check the parachute for any tears. The second test will use a drogue parachute on top of the main three. Plenty of other tests are scheduled for the rest of this year, the company said in a news release: A landing air bag test series is planned for May, as well as a forward heat shield jettison test and an orbital engine test fire in June.
And Boeing is not alone — several aerospace companies developing new spacecraft are planning to make progress this year, with a (possibly) upcoming launch of a SpaceX capsule to the International Space Station.
I wonder if the top row costs extra. If I was in there with a bunch of space tourists blasting up on a rocket instead of trained astronauts, it might be worth it not to be in the "danger zone."
From an outsiders perspective, I've always thought it a damn shame that Bigelow Aerospace doesn't have the cash or business alliance that would allow him to get something lasting up on orbit. He has had his habs for years now, waiting to go. He's never had much overt support from NASA, who apparently just looked at him as if he were unworthy of their services and support. I guess it's just an extension of the damn shame that our public doesn't have ANYTHING to say about who's programs get help in getting up and running. We just get to sit and watch as people put real effort and wealth into a space program for DECADES and then get closed out by the industry and by what is supposed to be OUR space program. I guess Bigelow has never come across with the required graft, eh?
When Bigelow had already designed and built every hab he has except the last one; neither Jeff Bezos, in the form of SpaceX, nor Richard Branson as Virgin... even existed. But no support for Bigelow, eh NASA?
Bigelow has always said he needs at least two viable ways for getting his customers to any habitat he puts into Space, before he will spend the money to put them there. It is *not* a question of him not having the money to do it. He understands all too well what happens to a property whose customers cannot reach it from a single point failure in the transportation of its customers. He made his billions in motels and apartments, after all.
The delays in getting the Commercial Crew program moving have been what delayed Bigelow more than anything else. Thank the congressional delegations trying to strangle commercial crew for the delays, in favor of pumping money into the MPCV and the SLS pork monsters.
@ TomBillings ; Hi. I was over on the Bigelow Aerospace site and one of the things he says on there is that he's well over 180 million in now, and expects to be up and running at the point of another 320 mil. Or not, but that's his current risk level on the table. He has always tried to work with numbers he can manage efficiently on a project by project basis, but now he's expanding his manufacturing capability. Overall growth pretty much guaranteed provided he can make a good set of deals on his mass and personnel lifters.