NASA Successfully Tests Launch Abort System for Orion Spacecraft
July 4, 2019 (EIRNS)—NASA carried out a successful Launch Abort System (LAS) test on the Orion spacecraft, during a launch at Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida on July 2. LAS is a crew safety system connected to a space capsule, in this case the Orion spacecraft, used to quickly separate the capsule from its launch vehicle rocket in case of a launch abort emergency, such as an impending explosion. NASA must be assured that the capsule can quickly and safely detach from the rocket in such an emergency.
Orion Program Manager Mark Kirasich proclaimed the operation, dubbed the Ascent Abort-2 flight test, a success. The Orion is the Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, intended to carry a crew of four astronauts to destinations at or beyond low Earth orbit, and is intended to be the main crew vehicle of the Artemis lunar exploration program, as well as later human flights to Mars.
According to NASA’s website, abort was initiated with the spacecraft—unmanned, of course—travelling at about 760 mph. Maximum speed was about 1,000 mph, and peak altitude was hit at just less than 44,000 feet. “One of the most important parts of the test was to see how the attitude [orientation] control motor performed,” Orion Program Manager Kirasich said. “The internal motor pressure was rock solid, straight line and it had excellent control characteristics.”
The test is a necessary step in the agency’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon.
“The next big checkmark is the Moon—it’s our Artemis 1 mission,” NASA’s Kirasich said. “A little over a year from now we’ll be sending Orion [again unmanned] on a Space Launch System rocket, and the destination of that vehicle is the Moon.”