NASA’s new Orion spacecraft will make its first trip to space in December. The spacecraft took a much shorter trip Sunday when it was moved from a specialized fueling facility at Kennedy Space Center to the Launch Abort System Facility to continue the preparations necessary for launch.
The launch abort system is designed to protect astronauts if a problem happens during launch, by pulling Orion away from a failing rocket. Because this first Orion flight will be uncrewed, the abort motor that would fire to pull the spacecraft away is not active. However, the jettison motor which will separate the launch abort system from the crew module in both emergencies and normal flights, is one of the critical systems being tested on Orion’s flight test.
Attached to an interstage, Orion will eventually be mounted to the top of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket and launched on a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will test the Orion heat shield under high speed conditions similar to those it will encounter when returning from deep space missions with astronauts aboard.