Published: Fri, July 05, 2019
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

Nasa’s Orion Crew Capsule Abort System Test Was a Success

Nasa’s Orion Crew Capsule Abort System Test Was a Success

NASA's Orion spacecraft, which will carry the first woman and the next man to the moon in 2024, was successfully tested Tuesday.

The entire test lasted a little over three minutes, and in a NASA briefing following the event, launch director Don Reed commented that if a crew had been aboard, they would have survived, with the addition of parachutes of course.

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

During Tuesday's test, the Orion spacecraft was hoisted from launchpad 46 on the Cape not by the Space Launch System, the massive rocket being built to fly it, but instead by a refurbished rocket motor from a Peacekeeper missile.

The capsule continued upwards another two miles, then flipped to jettison the abort tower. The "stack" - the parts comprising the rocket, abort system and capsule - that launched is about 93 feet tall. Then, the test officially began, with the LAS pulling the crew capsule away from the booster at an additional 260 miles per hour. At the time of maximum dynamic pressure during a launch, when a rocket is still accelerating but the atmosphere is remains relatively thick, the launch abort system proved capable of pulling Orion away from its booster, reorienting the spacecraft, and then releasing it. Artemis 1 will send an unpiloted capsule around the moon, and Artemis 2 will send a crew inside the Orion capsule on a similar trip.

NASA is slowly but surely inching its way towards its ultimate goal of being able to launch astronauts from US soil. It will be an uncrewed test created to replicate a real launch, but it won't be launched on top of the Space Launch System (SLS), NASA's next-gen rocket, as is now planned for lunar missions. Cheers erupted when the abort system and crew module separated from the rocket booster.

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This is the new craft NASA will use to transport humans to the Moon and Mars as a new age of space exploration begins.

Reed said telemetry was lost for five seconds, but all data recorders recovered by 8:10 am.

NASA and its contractors are in the process of building the first SLS booster and the Orion capsules needed for its first three missions as part of the newly named Artemis moon program.

Yesterday's test (video below) is in preparation for the upcoming Artemis missions, which will see US astronauts return to the lunar surface by 2024.

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. The White House has charged the agency with landing humans on the lunar surface in 2024. The uncrewed flight tested the capsule's heat shield to determine the conditions the spacecraft would face when returning from deep-space missions.

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