Boeing has revealed that a missing pin was to blame for one of three Starliner parachutes failing to deploy during a November 4 pad abort test. Despite the failure of the chute, NASA confirmed that the test had been satisfactorily completed greenlighting the Starliner’s maiden orbital test flight.
In a November 7 press release, Boeing revealed its initial findings of the November 4 pad abort test mishap. In reviewing closeup parachute inspection photos taken prior to the launch of the mission, investigators identified the issue as “a lack of a secure connection between pilot and main parachute.”
During parachute deployment, two drogue parachutes are deployed first. The drogues then pull out three pilot chutes which then individually pull out their corresponding main chutes. During the November 4 pad abort test, a pin that connects one of the pilot chutes to its main was not securely fastened. As a result, when the pilot deployed, the connection with its main was easily severed without the main chute being deployed.
Despite the failure of one of the three parachutes, the Starliner capsule touched down safely highlighting the redundancy of the system. As a result of the capsule still managing to safely touch down, NASA has deemed the test successful. “Although designed with three parachutes, two opening successfully is acceptable for the test perimeters and crew safety,” stated a November 4 NASA press release.
With the completition of the pad abort test, Boeing can move ahead with the first orbital flight test of the Starliner capsule. The mission is currently targeted for December 17. During the mission, a crew-ready Starliner capsule will rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station. Following an extended stay, it will return to Earth, recovered and rigorously inspected by Boeing and NASA teams.