NASA's Orion spacecraft completes final launch abort system flight test

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. The critical launch abort system for NASA's Orion spacecraft was put to test, and it demonstrated its capability to pull the crew module and future astronauts to safety during a launch if there is an emergency.

Photo courtesy of Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin designed and built the launch abort system for the test and is also the prime contractor building the Orion spacecraft for NASA. The Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test is a major test milestone that is enabling the safe passage of astronauts aboard Orion on the Artemis missions to the Moon and then Mars.

During the test from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the Orion launch abort system, with a mock-up Orion capsule, was launched on a modified Peacekeeper missile. At 31,000 feet, the on-board computers initiated the abort sequence. The launch abort motors then pulled the Orion capsule away from the rocket. Using its attitude control motor, the abort system then reoriented itself and jettisoned the Orion capsule using its jettison motor.

The total test took less than three minutes, according to company officials.

This is the second flight test the Orion launch abort system has undergone. The first was in 2010 simulating a static abort from the launch pad. AA-2 is the final test and demonstration of the full-up launch abort system.

NASA's Orion spacecraft for the uncrewed Artemis 1 mission to the Moon is being developed at the NASA Kennedy Space Center and will soon head into environmental testing—all in preparation for a 2020 launch.