In Highlands Ranch, Lockheed Martin Engineers Celebrate A Successful NASA Orion Launch

James Marshall
July 5, 2019

Then, with the capsule traveling at 760 miles per hour, NASA hit the abort button, sending the module into a splash landing in the Atlantic. On Tuesday, NASA will test a full abort as well as collect data from 900 sensors on the spacecraft.

Artemis was the twin sister of Apollo and goddess of the Moon in Greek mythology.

This month marks the 50th anniversary Apollo 11 moon landing, and Orion's mission is to return astronauts to the moon, including the first woman on the moon, in 2024.

NASA completed a successful test of the launch abort system (LAS) on its Orion spacecraft at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Tuesday.

Using Orion and NASA's Space Launch System, which is being built for a debut flight in late 2020, the USA space agency is aiming to return humans to the moon by 2024 in an accelerated timeline set in March by the Trump administration. Analysis of the information will provide insight into the abort system's performance. "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".

Scarcely a minute after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the abort motor fired, pulling the capsule from the booster around 6 miles (10 kilometers) up.

A little over 20 seconds later, the jettison motor pulled the capsule away from the rocket. Orion ejected 12 data recorders after breaking free of the launch vehicle, all of which were recovered within about an hour.

The test needed to be performed as early as possible for the Orion team to gather data and inform missions going forward. Then, the abort was initiated, causing the abort motor and attitude control motor, which provides steering, to ignite.

'No matter what approach you take, having to move a 22,000-pound spacecraft away quickly from a catastrophic event, like a potential rocket failure, is extremely challenging'.

The LAS contains a fairing assembly and the launch abort tower.

The first component is a shell made up of lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, wind and acoustics of the launch, ascent, and abort environments, according to NASA. The LAS uses an abort motor to pull the crew module away from the rocket, an attitude control motor to orient it and finally a jettison motor to release the module.

For the upcoming test, the space agency will use an Orion test article that closely mimics the real thing.

"It looked like a complete mission success to me", said Blake Watters, a launch-abort-system propulsion engineer at Lockheed Martin Corp, Orion's manufacturer. It was a three minute test, called Ascent Abort 2, launched the Orion capsule - a new piece of hardware by NASA required to fly humans safely to the moon - aboard a modified Peece missile procured from the US Air Force.

At the beginning of 2017, the space agency assessed the feasibility of adding a crew to the mission but ultimately decided against it, and pushed the launch date back to 2019.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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