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NASA successfully tests escape system for capsule that may never launch

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Orion Pad Abort 1At a test in the New Mexico desert this morning, NASA carried off what it called a successful test of a launch abort system for Orion, the crew capsule designed to return astronauts to orbit and beyond after the space shuttle retires this year or next. The system, which would rocket the crew to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, roared into the sky at 9:00 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time from White Sands Missile Range. A dummy crew capsule then detached and parachuted back to Earth about two minutes later.

The only question is whether the launch escape system will ever find use atop a real rocket. In February a budget request from President Barack Obama sought to cancel the family of next-generation space hardware to which Orion belongs, known as the Constellation Program, along with the program’s goal of returning to the moon in the near term.

Orion earned a partial reprieve from Obama in April, when the president traveled to Florida to make the case for his controversial space plan. In a speech at Kennedy Space Center, Obama said he had directed NASA to begin work on an Orion-derived escape pod for the International Space Station. But that reprieve would not involve manned launches with Orion, which the launch abort system is designed to protect.

Nevertheless, NASA personnel say elements of the abort system could find use somewhere, whether with Orion or on the privately operated rockets that Obama wants to hire to ferry astronauts to orbit after the shuttle’s phaseout. According to Spaceflight Now, Mark Geyer, project manager for Orion, told reporters that the test had demonstrated integration of the key elements to a launch abort system, regardless of the choice of rocket. "So I think it’s obviously very much applicable to any other system," he said.

Photo of dummy capsule below launch abort tower: U.S. Army White Sands Test Facility





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  1. 1. jack.123 10:34 am 05/8/2010

    Another feel good system that simply won’t work ,any explosion that happens will outrun it.Anything built fast enough to get away,and the G forces would kill the astronauts

    Link to this
  2. 2. marksburg 12:23 pm 05/8/2010

    Many things could go wrong on launch besides a cataclysmic explosion with no warning. In such cases it would sure be nice to have another option

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  3. 3. urackon 6:38 pm 05/8/2010

    Actually is response to jacks comment its more likely to work than not. These launch abort systems use solid rocket fuel which gives much greater acceleration than the liquid propellants used by the launch vehicle itself. The capsule is also located at the far end of the vehicle of where the epicenter of the explosion would be and the bottom of it is heavily shielded. It wouldn’t have a 100% chance of success but it would be a hell of a lot better than not having it at all.

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  4. 4. Wayne Williamson 3:51 pm 05/9/2010

    the pic looks just like the apollo escape system…why not just reuse it….part of the reason orion was canceled….

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  5. 5. Quinn the Eskimo 2:48 am 05/14/2010

    Another example of NASA having NO MISSION.

    NASA is DED.

    Virgin Atlantic will fix it.

    Link to this
  6. 6. juliaap01 6:54 am 05/14/2010

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  7. 7. juliaap01 6:56 am 05/14/2010

    hiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii
    That is realy great it is good to see.I hope we will see a lot more.Well donethis is very interesting post.I like it very much. Hope people will also like it.
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  8. 8. ennui 2:06 pm 05/21/2010

    Unless Nasa uses brains instead of wasting money and applies the technology of the Flying Saucer to the Shuttles for only a fee of $50 million, it will go to Russia or India.
    The 180 would-be- Astronauts will hardly get a chance after that.

    Link to this

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