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Boeing shows off Starliner parachute test after SpaceX hiccups

As concerns float around NASA's Commercial Crew program, Boeing says its parachutes are on track.

Boeing's Starliner prepared for acoustic testing earlier in 2019.

Boeing

The dream is laid out: NASA wants to launch astronauts to the International Space Station from US soil, ending its dependence on Russian spacecraft and rockets. Those astronauts also need to come back to the ground safely, which is where parachute tests for Boeing and SpaceX crew capsules come in.

Boeing on Friday shared some behind-the-scenes footage of a successful parachute test for its Starliner crew capsule. "It's part of our path to qualify the entire landing system to fly NASA astronauts," Boeing Space tweeted.

The timing of the tweet is important. SpaceX has felt like it was a step ahead of Boeing since it already successfully launched a Crew Dragon test capsule to the International Space Station. Both companies are involved in NASA's Commercial Crew program

But SpaceX has faced setbacks recently, including the loss of a Crew Dragon capsule due to a mysterious engine anomaly during testing. NASA's William Gerstenmaier reported the failure of an April SpaceX Crew Dragon parachute test during a House subcommittee hearing this week. "The parachutes did not work as designed," Gerstenmaier said.  The cause of the failure is still under study.

Boeing said it has now completed four out of five major parachute tests and has met all test objectives with the Starliner parachutes performing as expected. The company said it still intends to launch and land an uncrewed test capsule this summer. 

Delays are common for space projects. The SpaceX issues have called into question NASA's desired timeline for sending humans into space from US soil later this year. This new parachute video seems designed to offer a little reassurance from Boeing's side.