Boeing CST-100 reaching next milestone – thrusters after hot fire tests !

Manufacturer of the propulsion system of future manned spacecraft delivering astronauts to International Space Station under CCDev NASA program, Aerojet Rocketdyne, had already finished hot fire tests of engines, which will power Boeing CST-100.

As we know Boeing flagship is part of the contract with NASA for creating next generation manned spacecraft. Program is known widely as Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) and is also covering creating manned version of Dragon spacecraft by competitor of the Boeing - SpaceX. First mission of the CST-100 Starliner is scheduled for 2018 - on February this year first astronauts will fly to ISS inside CST-100.

On July 25, 2016, Aerojet Rocketdyne, subcontractor for propulsion chosen by Boeing for Starliner project, announced about finishing hot fire tests of RCS thrusters designed for Boeing’s spacecraft. These engines are part of Reaction Control System which is responsible for performing maneuvers of Starliner such as rendezvous or course correction. RCS thrusters are based on construction, which is already in production what helped in reducing costs and was less time consuming than designing thrusters from the scratch. Thrusters were put under 4000 pulses lasting in total for 1600 seconds to test lightweight composite chamber designed especially for reducing weight, increasing performance, temperature resistance and increasing safety of construction during long missions with number of pulses. Tests were conducted at NASA's White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico.

It is worth to remind that Aerojet Rocketdyne was also contracted to design and manufacture other parts of the Starliner propulsion. In spite of 28 RCS thrusters, AR manufactured 4 Launch Abort Engine (LAE) units for emergency rescue system generating 177 kN of thrust to separate capsule from the rocket in case of problems during rocket liftoff and 24 thrusters for Orbital Maneuvering and Attitude Control (OMAC) system, which will perform critical maneuvers like reentry or separation from service module. Company was also chosen as contractor for minor parts of the CST-100 like valves, lines, ducts. Finishing hot fire tests is opening next door for the certification process of the CST-100 for manned flights.

On picture above: RCS thruster during testing.