Thursday, May 06, 2010

Future NASA Launch Escape System Tested

The Launch Escape System separates from Orion today. (NASA)

A new version of a launch escape system for the upcoming Orion manned spacecraft was successfully tested this morning at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility.

The new escape system is designed to pull the Orion craft away from a troubled or exploding core rocket from prelaunch or up thru the initial launch phase.

The Pad Abort 1 test ignited and launched at 9:00:01 am EDT this morning, near Las Cruces, New Mexico. (Watch the NASA Video)

NASA's first fully integrated test of the multiple motors associated with the launch escape system went very smoothly while mounted a top a mock Orion module. The system is designed for future Orion manned launches beginning no earlier than 2014.

The craft was sent one mile in altitude and landed about one mile north of the test site, landing some 97 seconds later.

The launch team stated an hour after the test concluded that they saw no anomalies and that it was outstanding.

The abort motor begins the escape launch process as it produces 500,000 pounds of thrust or 15 G's to launch the Orion upward.

The Attitude Control System Motor which uses 8 solid motor thruster valves then reorients the craft and swings it 180 degrees to prepare for the drag chutes to deploy. The ACS motors pitch Orion from the six o'clock position up to the 9 o'clock and around to the 4 o'clock position to begin the landing sequence.

The jettison motor then ejects the launch escape tower away from the Orion so that a series of parachutes can begin to deploy and slow the craft down.

The craft landed at a speed of 23 miles per hour.

This was the United States' first abort system test since the early Apollo days in 1966.

The Orion craft parachutes down this morning (NASA)

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