NASA Practices Emergency Procedures for Starliner Flight
Landing and salvage teams from Boeing and NASA participate in a crew landing rehearsal at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico in preparation for missions with astronauts from the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program to return. Boeing
Boeing is working on a capsule to transport the crew into space called the Starliner, which NASA will eventually use to transport astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) and back. The company is preparing for its second orbital flight test of the Starliner, which is still ongoing. However, future test flights and operational flights will be manned by crew members, and this means that procedures must be in place in the event of an emergency.
This week, NASA tested these emergency procedures at a dress rehearsal at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, simulating what would happen if a medical emergency occurred during a Starliner flight. This particular test simulated astronauts returning from the ISS and landing with a crew member who had to be evacuated to a hospital in a medical helicopter.
“We work with level 1 trauma centers that are fully staffed and have a large number of doctors and nurses for a variety of conditions and disciplines, so we can very quickly integrate into a network of the best,” said Michael Schertz, Boeing Starliner medical coordinator and landing and recovery team leader in a statement.
“While the likelihood of a medical incident requiring this level of care is small, we just don’t know enough to rule out the risk. As such, we are preparing for the worst in the hope that we will never need it, ”said Chris Ferguson, Boeing astronaut and director of Commercial Crew Mission Integration and Operations.
The Starliner lands on land, unlike SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which lands in the ocean. It will land in one of five locations in the US, which means that an emergency security team must be prepared for each location.
The New Mexico test managed to locate the capsule and get the crew member out in less than an hour, which is within the agency’s targeted timeframe.
“The Commercial Crew Program missions do not end until the crew members are safely removed from the Starliner,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “Training exercises like this are essential to ensure that the entire team is prepared for any scenario.”