NASA launches Orion crew capsule to test abort system


"Hopefully this will be the last time we see this launch abort system ever work, but this test brings confidence that if needed on future Orion missions, it will safely pull the crew module and astronauts away from a life threatening event during launch".

Fifty-five seconds later, at an altitude of about 31,000 feet and traveling at more than 1,000 miles per hour, the solid fuel-powered launch abort system, or LAS, ignited on computer command, spewing four jets of fiery exhaust and generating 400,000 pounds of thrust. Twelve data recorders popped off in bright orange canisters before impact, for ocean retrieval. "The abort motor fired, the attitude control motor, the pressures were all first accounts it was a flawless test".

The crew capsule was empty for Tuesday morning's demo at Cape Canaveral, which NASA said appeared to be successful.

NASA has successfully tested the launch abort system for the Orion crew capsule created to take astronauts to the Moon.

"It was a very smooth liftoff", said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager. With this exploration system created to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we'll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent. 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 test version of Orion launched at 7 a.m. EDT (1100 GMT) from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, taking to the skies atop the refurbished first-stage motor of a Peacekeeper intercontinental ballistic missile.

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Instead of sending astronauts directly to the lunar surface, as was done during the Apollo era, NASA plans instead to first build an outpost in orbit around the moon, known as the Gateway.

NASA's Orion spacecraft for the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission to the Moon is being developed at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and will soon head into environmental testing-all in preparation for a 2020 launch. This allowed the craft to reach 31,000 feet in 55 seconds.

The first uncrewed launch of Orion is now slated for next year, with the crewed version - including the full launch abort system - set to launch in 2023. Then, the abort was initiated, causing the abort motor and attitude control motor, which provides steering, to ignite. 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. That was the first such mishap in over 30 years for the launch system.

An instant after ignition, the motor is generating 400,000 pounds of thrust, pulling a mockup of an Orion capsule away from its booster. There were 890 sensors on the vehicle to measure, in real time, temperature, pressure and acoustics, she said.

The stakes are high, not just for the space agency, but for America's White House as well. Equipped with radio beacons, the recorders are created to float on the surface while waiting for recovery. That's how we pick the test points for this.