A key safety system on NASA’s Orion spacecraft — one that could save lives during launch — will undergo a major test sooner than expected, the agency announced last week.
The Orion spacecraft is similar to the Apollo-era crafts that carried astronauts to the moon and back. It is being designed to launch atop NASA’s Space Launch Systems (SLS) rocket, which is also under development. Part of the Orion-SLS system is the launch abort system (LAS), would consists of a small motor that can fire and jettison the human craft away from the rocket in an emergency during launch.
The “full-stress” test of the LAS will now take place in April 2019, the agency announced Nov. 9. The spacecraft will launch atop an Atlas V rocket (because the SLS will still be in development or test phases), and travel to an altitude of 32,000 feet (9,750 meters) at Mach 1.3, or about 1,000 miles per hour (1,600 km/h). At that point, the LAS motor will fire and send the Orion vehicle away from the rocket.
“This will be the only time we test a fully active launch abort system during ascent before we fly crew, so verifying that it works ...