Boeing Tests “Pusher” Abort System for CST-100 Vehicle

Boeing's CST-100 crew transport. (Credit: Boeing)

P&WR PR — Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne successfully completed a series of hot-fire tests of the Bantam demonstration engine for an innovative “pusher” launch abort system on The Boeing Company’s CST-100 spacecraft.  The launch abort engine is a critical component of future commercial crew transportation to low-Earth orbit.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE: UTX) company.

A pusher launch abort system “pushes” or propels a spacecraft toward safety if a launch abort is needed and, if unused for an abort, the propellant can be used for other portions of the mission. The tests were conducted on a new test stand in the California desert.

“The successful engine test series was Boeing’s last major milestone under our current Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement with NASA. It validates our technical approach for a pusher launch abort system,” said Keith Reiley, deputy program manager, Commercial Crew programs, Boeing.  “With this system, we can use the abort fuel to re-boost the space station orbit, which is an added benefit to NASA and Bigelow Aerospace.  This is a significant step in our plan to provide safe, reliable and affordable crew and passenger transportation to the International Space Station and other low-Earth orbit destinations.”

“The engine performance was stable during the full-duration tests, achieving 52,000 to 54,000 pounds of thrust, and the hardware was in excellent condition after the tests,” said Terry Lorier, Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne’s Bantam program manager supporting Boeing’s Commercial Crew programs.  “The tests validated operating conditions during engine start-up and shut down, provided key thermal and analytical data, and met or exceeded all contract requirements.  We are extremely pleased with the latest test demonstration’s rapid success in validating a key element of Boeing’s launch abort system, and look forward to continuing our partnership with Boeing in pursuit of the next-generation, commercial human-rated spacecraft.”

Boeing is advancing the design of the CST-100 under a Commercial Crew Development Space Act Agreement with NASA.  When development is completed, the vehicle will be capable of transporting people to the International Space Station and other future low-Earth orbit destinations.  Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is operating under a fixed price contract to Boeing to reduce risk and demonstrate the applicability of the Bantam engine to Boeing’s CST-100 spacecraft.

Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, a part of Pratt & Whitney, is a preferred provider of high-value propulsion, power, energy and innovative system solutions used in a wide variety of government and commercial applications, including the main engines for the space shuttle, Atlas and Delta launch vehicles, missile defense systems and advanced hypersonic engines. Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne is headquartered in Canoga Park, Calif., and has facilities in Huntsville, Ala.; Kennedy Space Center, Fla.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Stennis Space Center, Miss. For more information about Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, go to

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and commercial building industries.