NASA Gearing up for July 2 Morning Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test

Prelaunch news conference for the Ascent Abort-2 flight test
From left, Derrol Nail, NASA Communications, moderates a prelaunch news conference on July 1, 2019, for the agency’s Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test, with Jenny Devolites, AA-2 Crew Module manager; Mark Kirasich, Orion Program manager; and Randy Bresnik, NASA astronaut, at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett

With weather at 80 percent go for launch and everything proceeding as planned, optimism and enthusiasm were high at Monday morning’s Ascent Abort-2 flight test preview news conference at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“We are incredibly excited,” said Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 crew module manager and test conductor. “It’s such an honor to be a part of this activity and to have this opportunity.”

The Ascent Abort-2 flight test of the launch abort system for NASA’s Orion spacecraft, featuring a test version of the crew module, will lift off from Space Launch Complex 46 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Tuesday, July 2. The four-hour launch window opens at 7 a.m. EDT. NASA TV will broadcast launch activities, starting at 6:40 a.m. A postlaunch briefing is  scheduled for approximately two hours after launch. Audio of this briefing will stream live on the agency’s website.

Orion will help pave the way for Artemis missions with astronauts to the Moon and then Mars.

“This test is extremely important,” said Mark Kirasich, Orion program manager. “Our Launch Abort System is a key safety feature of the spacecraft — it will protect the crew members who fly onboard Orion during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.”

Ascent Abort-2 will verify Orion’s abort system can pull the crew module away from an emergency during its ascent to space. The two main objectives: execute the abort by demonstrating it can be completed end to end, and collect key data. There are approximately 900 sensors — including temperature sensors, pressure sensors and microphones —located throughout the vehicle.

At liftoff, the booster will provide about 500,000 pounds of thrust. It will take 55 seconds to ascend to 31,000 feet, traveling more than 800 mph, at which point the abort will be initiated and the abort motor will ignite. Also igniting will be the attitude control motor, which provides steering.

Twenty-seven seconds after the abort, the jettison motor will ignite, pulling away the Launch Abort System from the crew module. The crew module will then free-fall and descend back to the ocean. As a backup communication system, 12 ejectable data recorders eject into the water in pairs. The highest altitude reached will be about 45,000 feet.

“It’s certainly a very exciting test for us tomorrow because it is so important,” NASA astronaut Randy Bresnik said. “The neat part is the next time this whole Launch Abort System flies, there will be crew underneath it in Artemis 2.”