NASA has received the Launch Abort System which will be used on the first flight of the space agency’s Orion spacecraft, currently scheduled to take launch in September 2014. Photo Credit: ATK

The Orion launch abort system lifts off during the Pad Abort 1
flight test, May 6, 2010, at the White Sands Missile Range.
Photo Credit: NASA

This NASA image details the basic flight plan of the space agency’s Exploration Flight Test 1. Image Credit: NASA

Launch Abort System Delivered to KSC in Preparation for Orion’s First Flight

By Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Preparations to send the first Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle into orbit has passed yet another milestone on the road to launch. The spacecraft’s launch abort motor was delivered to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Given that the Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) will be an unmanned test flight, the motor has been filled with inert propellant.

This Launch Abort System (LAS) will be virtually identical to the real thing in every other way. These engines are used to pull the capsule away from the launch vehicle in case of an accident involving the launch vehicle. The LAS is only able to pull the crew away either on the launch pad or on ascent. After Orion reaches orbit, the LAS is jettisoned.

As it will not have a crew, NASA technically does not require the EFT-1 version of Orion to have a LAS. However, it will serve NASA’s objectives of simulating the weight of an actual Orion spacecraft, as well as the aerodynamic forces it undergoes on ascent.

“As a former NASA astronaut, and as a leader at ATK who is responsible for providing this motor for the launch abort system, I’m keenly aware of the requirements around safety. This system is enabling greater levels of safety than we’ve ever seen before,” said Charlie Precourt, a four-time shuttle astronaut who currently serves as ATK’s vice president and general manager of the company’s Space Launch Division. “Our motor is designed to instantaneously provide around 400,000 pounds of thrust to lift the Orion capsule and crew safely away from the launch vehicle in the event of an abort.”

Read more: Launch Abort System Delivered to KSC in Preparation for Orion’s First Flight « AmericaSpace.

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