NASA launches Orion crew capsule to test abort system

Katie Ramirez
July 5, 2019

NASA carried out a successful test Tuesday of a launch-abort system for the Orion capsule created to take U.S. astronauts to the Moon.

The crew capsule and its launch abort safety system lifted off on time from Cape Canaveral. A successful abort system is essential to making sure the safety of astronauts Orion will eventually carry.

NASA and Northrop Grumman successfully completed the Ascent Abort 2 test on Tuesday, July 2, 2019 at 7 a.m. EDT (11:00 GMT).

The capsule continued upwards another two miles, then flipped to jettison the abort tower. The LAS itself then separated from the capsule. The video above was shot by NASA and shows the abort system firing.

During a pre-test press conference on Saturday, a NASA official said the falling capsule would hit the ocean at speeds reaching 500 kilometers per hour, and they're "not expecting it to stay intact when it hits", as reported by SpaceNews. In an emergency on the launch pad or during flight with the rocket's first stage, the abort motors would fire, pulling the crew away from the main body of the SLS with an impressive 400,000 pounds of thrust. The crew module rests inside the tee and once the fairing is jettisoned, it rapidly accelerates away from the rocket booster, powering to 31,000 feet at around 1,000 miles per hour.

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

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In truth, the problem with Orion has never really been its technical performance-by all accounts, NASA and Lockheed Martin are building a capable, robust, safe vehicle for humans to return to deep space in the early to mid-2020s.

A two-person crew inside Russia's Soyuz capsule, used by the United States to carry its astronauts to the International Space Station, a year ago used its abort system 31 miles (50 km) above the surface of the Earth when the rocket malfunctioned.

All of the data recorders have now been retrieved by boat. Work on the Orion seems to be on schedule but the rocket that would take it into space, the so-called SLS developed for NASA mainly by Boeing, is running late.

The first crewed flight test, or Artemis 2, would follow in 2022 and would be a lunar flyby mission.

NASA hopes to have an initial uncrewed flight test, known as Artemis 1, around the moon by next year, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office said that date could slip into the following year. SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule exploded on a test stand in April just before engineers test-fired its abort engines, triggering an investigation that could delay the pod's first crewed flight by several months.

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