The test platform of NASA’s Orion crew module arrived safely at the Johnson Space Center in Houston where it will be fully outfitted ahead of its Ascent Abort Test next year. The Ascent Abort Test 2 (AA-2) is designed to test the crew module’s Launch Abort System (LAS).
The LAS is the upper tower structure of NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket. In the event of an emergency, the LAS abort rocket motor would fire pulling the crew module away from the SLS gaining over 2 miles in altitude. A second motor would then fire to orientate the crew module followed by a third to jettison the module from the LAS. The module would then deploy its parachutes and perform a splashdown landing.
Early this month, the Orion crew module underwent mass property testing at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. The tests were conducted to ascertain the craft’s exact weight and centre of gravity. With this information, engineers can make any necessary adjustments to the test module to ensure it accurately represents a fully operational iteration during its AA-2 test.
Once Johnson Space Center engineers have completed outfitting the Orion module, it will be sent to NASA Glenn’s Plum Brook Station in Ohio to undergo acoustic chamber testing. The module’s AA-2 test is currently scheduled to for April 2019.
Orion Crew Module Exploration Mission-1
The preparation and testing of the Orion crew module will culminate in the spacecraft’s first mission, currently designated as Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The mission will not be crewed and will instead be a first step towards ensuring the safety of astronauts during future Orion missions.
The EM-1 Orion mission will see the uncrewed spacecraft travel thousands of miles beyond the moon over a three-week mission period. EM-1 mission manager, Mike Sarafin emphasised the importance of the upcoming EM-1 flight stating, “This is a mission that truly will do what hasn’t been done and learn what isn’t known.”
The EM-1 flight is expected to lift off from Launch Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center by late 2019. However, NASA officials have indicated the launch date may need to be delayed.
Featured Image: NASA/Robert Markowitz