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Launch abort system installed for Orion test flight

The Launch Abort System was attached to the Orion spacecraft inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF) at Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: Cory Huston / NASA

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida installed the Launch Abort System (LAS) on Friday, Oct. 3 in preparation for December’s launch of the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission. The LAS, Orion crew capsule and service module will be tested together inside the Launch Abort System Facility (LASF).  The Orion spacecraft will remain inside the LASF until mid-November, when it will be rolled out to Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 37 (SLC-37) and integrated with the United Launch Alliance (ULA ) Delta IV Heavy Rocket.

Photo Credit: Lockheed-Martin

Launch Abort System Photo Credit: Lockheed-Martin

The LAS will not be active during the uncrewed EFT-1 mission, but during future missions it will be equipped to act within milliseconds to pull the spacecraft and its crew away from its rocket so that Orion could parachute safely back to Earth.  While the abort motors  are inert and not filled with solid fuel, the LAS will have an active jettison motor so that it can pull itself and the nose fairing away from the spacecraft shortly before Orion goes into orbit. The flight test will provide data on the abort system’s performance during Orion’s trip to space.

The LAS is nearly 53 feet (16 meters) tall on its own, when stacked atop the crew and service modules, the completed spacecraft reaches about 80 feet (24 meters) into the air. Scaffolding had to be constructed in the LASF to put the finishing touches on the spacecraft.

EFT-1 is scheduled to liftoff from SLC-37 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on December 4. The Delta IV Heavy rocket will send Orion 3,600 miles above the Earth to test the spacecraft’s most vital systems. After two orbits around the Earth,  Orion will reenter the atmosphere at a speed of 20,000 miles (32,187 km) per hour, generating temperatures near 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit, before deploying its parachutes and splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.

Video courtesy of ReelNASA


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Jim Sharkey is a lab assistant, writer and general science enthusiast who grew up in Enid, Oklahoma, the hometown of Skylab and Shuttle astronaut Owen K. Garriott. As a young Star Trek fan he participated in the letter-writing campaign which resulted in the space shuttle prototype being named Enterprise. While his academic studies have ranged from psychology and archaeology to biology, he has never lost his passion for space exploration. Jim began blogging about science, science fiction and futurism in 2004. Jim resides in the San Francisco Bay area and has attended NASA Socials for the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover landing and the NASA LADEE lunar orbiter launch.

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