Saturday, 17 August, 2019

NASA launches Orion crew capsule to test abort system

Orion moon capsule endures intense abort test over Space Coast Orion test scheduled Tuesday morning from Cape Canaveral
Sandra Phillips | 05 July, 2019, 14:26

"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".

NASA has successfully tested a key safety system on a new space capsule created to take humans to the moon.

The demo version of the capsule will be launched atop a test booster, Minotaur IV, provided by Northrop Grumman at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 46.

NASA tested the abort system in this flight to gather reams of data about the maneuver and the conditions experienced by the capsule in its aftermath.

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. The LAS itself then separated from the capsule. The "stack" - the parts comprising the rocket, abort system and capsule - that launched is about 93 feet tall. An unpiloted test flight of the SLS booster and Orion capsule is planned for late next year or early 2021 followed by a piloted flight of an Orion capsule carrying astronauts around the moon in the 2022 timeframe.

Another Orion test article was launched on a three-orbit long, 3,604 mile (5,800 kilometer) high flight test in 2014 on the Exploration Flight Test 1 mission. Then, the test officially began, with the LAS pulling the crew capsule away from the booster at an additional 260 miles per hour.

The exercise aimed to test in nearly real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the Orion capsule in the event of an explosion or other problem shortly after launch of the rocket taking them into space.

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Nasa has successfully the system that could save the lives of the astronauts that are heading to the Moon.

The test, called Ascent Abort-2, involved the launch of an uncrewed Orion spacecraft followed by an abort sequence around a minute later. Based on the live data collected, though, the agency is pleased.

The agency plans to use the Orion capsule, designed by Lockheed Martin, which is also meant to carry astronauts to Mars and other deep-space missions, as well as the Boeing-made Space Launch System, or SLS rocket now under development for lunar missions.

That said, NASA expects to retrieve 12 data recorders ejected by the capsule during its descent, the data from which "will provide insight into the abort system's performance", according to NASA.

"Everything looked really good", said Mark Kirasich, NASA's Orion program manager. From there the astronauts can use another vehicle to descend to the lunar surface for the first time since 1972.

"It's a major milestone on the program to make sure we can safely protect our crew", said Corey Brooker, a senior staff engineer with Lockheed Martin.

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