NASA has announced that its Orion spacecraft launch abort system (LAS) test proved successful on Tuesday. The space agency said that the LAS was able to outrun the modified Peacekeeper missile that was propelling Orion into the sky. With the successful test, NASA can focus on making progress with the Orion spacecraft for the upcoming Artemis 1 mission, slated for the latter half of 2020, which will send an uncrewed Orion mission around the Moon.
A team is now out collecting 12 flight recorders that were ejected during the mission, each device will give NASA scientists more information so that they can refine the abort process further.
Discussing the significance of the launch abort system, Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, said:
“Launching into space is one of the most difficult and dangerous parts of going to the Moon. This test mimicked some of the most challenging conditions Orion will ever face should an emergency develop during the ascent phase of flight. Today, the team demonstrated our abort capabilities under these demanding conditions and put us one huge step closer to the first Artemis flight carrying people to the Moon.”
The test itself lasted around three minutes and was officially called Ascent Abort-2. The launch was slated for 07:00 EDT from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Once the craft reached an altitude of six miles, a location where the craft is highly stressed, the abort sequence was started.
The LAS uses three solid rocket motors: the abort motor (AM), the attitude control motor (ACM), and finally the jettison motor (JM). The AM was used to bring the crew module away from the rocket, the ACM oriented the capsule, and then the JM fires to release the crew module from the LAS.
Going forward, the Orion spacecraft is going to be a part of many important missions during the 2020s including missions to the Lunar Orbital Platform - Gateway (formerly known as Deep Space Gateway), and to the Moon’s surface towards the end of the decade.