NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida supports Santa Claus during his annual mission to deliver toys and other presents to children around the world. Once again, the agency makes the latest technology at the premier, multi-user spaceport available for Santa’s global trip this Christmas Eve.
Launch Abort System, or LAS, motors are being assembled and checked out at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida for an upcoming test for the Orion spacecraft designed to send astronauts on trips to the Moon, and support human exploration to Mars.
Orion is designed to launch atop the agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will take astronauts into deep space. Before flying astronauts, the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test will help verify that the LAS can pull astronauts to safety in the event of a problem during launch.
The crew escape system will be attached to the top of the spacecraft.
According to Carlos Garcia of Orion Production Operations at Kennedy there are three motors on the LAS- the abort, attitude control and jettison motors. The abort motor can propel the crew module away from the rocket in milliseconds should there be an issue with SLS on the pad or during launch. The attitude control motor would steer the spacecraft during the maneuver. The jettison motor will pull the LAS away from the crew module, allowing Orion’s parachutes to deploy with the spacecraft safely landing in the ocean.
The abort and jettison motors for the test arrived on Aug. 27 and Sept. 10, 2018 respectively, and the attitude control motor was delivered Dec. 15.
“As the motor segments come in, we align and mate them to the motor truss assembly,” Garcia said. “We’re working on the electrical connections now.”
“Once the LAS assembly and checkout are complete, we’ll do a soft mate to the Orion crew module mock-up,” Garcia said. “That test will help us make sure everything is working as intended.”
For AA-2, a test version of Orion equipped with 284 sensors will launch atop a booster provided by Northrop Grumman from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The test booster is being processed in the space center’s Vehicle Assembly Building and later will be transported to SLC 46.
“After the LAS is mated to Orion, the combination will be moved to the Cape for mating to the booster,” Garcia said.
Targeted for May 2019, AA-2 will test an LAS abort under the highest aerodynamic loads it would experience in flight. The booster will accelerate to 31,000 feet, traveling at more than 1,000 miles an hour. The LAS abort motor then will ignite, pulling the crew module away from the booster.
The jettison motor separates the LAS from the crew module. The AA-2 test will conclude as data recorders are jettisoned for retrieval in the Atlantic Ocean.
NASA and SpaceX have agreed to move the target launch date of the uncrewed Demo-1 flight test to the International Space Station. SpaceX coordinated with the Eastern Range for a launch on Thursday, Jan 17. This adjustment allows the return of the Dragon spacecraft from the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission. SpaceX’s Demo-1 will provide key data associated with the ground, integrated rocket and spacecraft, and autonomous docking systems, and the landing profile ahead of the company’s flight test with astronauts, known as Demo-2.
“We still have more work to do as the certification process, hardware development and readiness reviews continue,” said Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The key readiness reviews along with NASA’s continued analysis of hardware and software testing and certification data must be closed out prior to launch. The upcoming steps before the test missions are critical, and their importance can’t be understated. We are not driven by dates, but by data. Ultimately, we’ll fly SpaceX Demo-1 at the right time, so we get the right data back to support the in-flight abort test and the next test flight when our astronauts are aboard. However, the fact we’re coordinating target dates with the Eastern Range is a great example of the real progress we’re making with commercial crew and how close we are to actually flying American spacecraft and rockets from American soil again.”
For more information on commercial crew flights, visit:
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft lifted off at 1:16 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Dragon is carrying more than 5,600 pounds of research, hardware and supplies to the International Space Station on the company’s 16th commercial resupply mission. Read more about the launch here.
Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will air on NASA Television beginning at 4:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec 8. Installation coverage is set to begin at 7:30 a.m. Astronauts aboard the station will capture the Dragon using the space station’s robotic arm and then install it on the station’s Harmony module. The Dragon spacecraft will spend about five weeks attached to the space station, returning to Earth in January 2019.
NASA and SpaceX are now targeting Wednesday, Dec. 5 for launch of the 16th SpaceX cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch was moved to Wednesday after mold was found on food bars for a rodent investigation prior to handover to SpaceX. Teams will use the extra day to replace the food bars. The launch time for Wednesday is 1:16 p.m. EST.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are slated to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 1:38 p.m. EST on Tuesday, Dec. 4. This will be the company’s 16th commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing predict a 60 percent chance of favorable weather for liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for the company’s 16th commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station. Launch is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec 4 at 1:38 p.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. On launch day, the primary weather concerns are violation of the thick cloud layer and cumulus cloud rules and flight through precipitation.