NASA To Test Orion's Launch Abort System | AWIN_Space content from Aviation Week

Pablo Tucker
July 2, 2019

"Test complete! Today's ~3-minute test of @NASA_Orion spacecraft's launch abort system verified that @NASA_Astronauts can safely get away from their launch vehicle in the case of an emergency after liftoff", the agency said on Twitter. The launch abort motors, generating 400,000 pounds of thrust, then pulled the Orion capsule away from the rocket which was already traveling almost 1,000 miles per hour. Late past year, NASA astronaut Nick Hague and Russian cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin were saved after the abort system of their Russian spacecraft kicked in two minutes after liftoff.

"The Space and Missile Systems Center partnered with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems to provide a refurbished Peacekeeper booster for this momentous test mission", said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC's Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico. The "stack" - the parts comprising the rocket, abort system and capsule - that launched is about 93 feet tall.

NASA and its contractors are in the process of building the first SLS booster and the Orion capsules needed for its first three missions as part of the newly named Artemis moon program. "We want to demonstrate that the LAS works in this environment", said Mark Kirasich, an Orion program manager.

On Tuesday morning, NASA will test the launch abort safety system for Orion. It looks to have been a success, but NASA will hold a press conference later to discuss what data was acquired during the test.

A launch abort system on a Russian rocket saved the lives of two astronauts last October. For Tuesday's test, this won't be a true Orion crew capsule, since engineers plan to let it crash into the ocean at high speed, where it will nearly certainly break apart and sink. After reaching an altitude of six miles, the spacecraft's abort sequence triggered.

In live video of the unmanned launch, the firing of the abort structure atop the capsule was seen detaching the capsule from the booster, flipping it around.

After the primary abort motor burned out, the attitude control system, responding to guidance commands, flipped the Orion around into a tail-first orientation for the fall back toward Earth. NASA plans to send the first woman and next man to the moon in 2024 - laying the foundation for future manned, deep-space missions. The abort system is created to pull an Orion moon capsule, hidden from view inside an aerodynamic shroud, safely away from a malfunctioning booster during an actual climb to space.

A little over 20 seconds later, the jettison motor pulled the capsule away from the rocket.

Reed said telemetry was lost for five seconds, but all data recorders recovered by 8:10 am.

The launch abort system is made of four separate components.

The capsule fell into the water and after ejecting its black box recorders, was allowed to sink.

"We're not expecting it to stay intact when it hits", Jenny Devolites, the Nasa test manager.

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