Boeing's new has finally flown, if only for a few minutes and without any crew aboard.
The company performed a pad abort test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico Monday morning. The test saw the Starliner crew capsule and a service module launching from a test stand and reaching a height of about a mile over the desert floor before adjusting its attitude and deploying parachutes to begin the soft-landing process.
This is the same procedure that would be triggered during a real, crewed launch if there were any risk to astronauts on board prior to launch. The abort engines that were tested Monday would fire to launch the crew clear of the launch pad and to safety.
The test went off at 6:15 a.m. PT and saw the Starliner capsule fire its four abort engines and launch the craft to a speed of about 650 mph (1,046 km/h) in around 5 seconds. Only moments later, Starliner's thrusters fired to adjust its orientation in order to release its parachutes and begin slowing down for landing.
Shortly before landing, the service module dropped to the ground and a series of airbags on the bottom of Starliner inflated for a soft landing. The dust kicked up by the service module's not-so-soft landing was visible as Starliner touched down.
Though the landing appeared successful, a post-touchdown statement by Boeing called the test a milestone achievement but detailed a "deployment anomaly" relating to one of the spacecraft's three parachutes.
You can watch the whole thing for yourself. The launch countdown begins about 25 minutes into the below video:
Starliner is one of two new spacecraft, along with the SpaceX Crew Dragon, designed to take astronauts to orbit as part of NASA's Commercial Crew program.
Next up, Boeing aims to send an uncrewed Starliner to the International Space Station for the first time as part of an orbital flight test. The launch for that test is set for Dec. 17 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.