Pictures: Boeing drops its spaceship from 14,000 feet

Boeing's CST-100 descends from the sky over Arizona. (Image credits: Boeing)

 Here’s another milestone in the commercial space race: Boeing says it completed a successful test yesterday of the parachute drop system for its CST-100 spacecraft, releasing the capsule from a helicopter at 14,000 feet.

Boeing says the test, conducted over the Delamar Dry Lake Bed near Alamo, Nev., involved the entire landing system of the CST-100 — using three parachutes to slow its descent and six air bags to cushion its landing.

The company is developing the capsule as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, in which private companies are competing to replace the Space Shuttle as a means of transporting up to seven astronauts to the International Space Station.  Boeing partner Bigelow Aerospace also plans to use the CST-100 to transport people to and from its space complex.

Boeing is on schedule to conduct test flights of the CST-100 in 2015-16, using the Atlas V rocket.

Another competitor in the commercial space race, SpaceX, is gearing up to become the first commercial company to dock a spacecraft with the International Space Station in the coming days.

And Blue Origin, founded by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, last week said it completed a series of successful high-speed wind tunnel tests, helping to refine its spacecraft’s aerodynamics.