Tag Archives: launch abort test

SLS abort test for Orion successful

The second launch abort test of NASA’s SLS/Orion rocket/capsule was successfully completed today.

I have embedded video of the test below the fold. The goal was to test the system that will safely separate the capsule from a failing rocket, which is why no parachutes released to gently bring the capsule back to Earth.

Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) intentionally runs that emergency abort sequence. Three motors in the LAS fired in that short sequence of a few seconds and then the test was essentially over before the three minutes was up while the hardware was airborne.

NASA and its Orion contractor team recorded test data from real-time telemetry and in onboard data recorders, but the major hardware for the test fell into the ocean. A set of a dozen data recorders were ejected from the Crew Module test article for recovery before it hit the water and sunk.

Why they couldn’t also test the parachutes the same time illustrates the wasteful manner in which SLS/Orion is managed. Moreover, this test was the second for this rocket/capsule, with the first occurring nine years ago, in May 2010. As I have noted,

We fought and won World War II in about a third of that amount of time. The Civil War took about half that time. In fact, it took SpaceX less time to conceive, design, and launch the Falcon Heavy.

Any project that takes this long to accomplish anything is a fraud. It indicates that the goal of SLS/Orion is not to build and fly a manned capsule, but to suck money from the taxpayer for as long as possible.

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Tank tests for launch abort rocket

The competition heats up: This week SpaceX conducted at Vandenberg a tank test of the booster rocket that will be used for its Dragon in-flight launch abort test later this year.

That they are doing these tank tests at Vandenberg is interesting. I would think the actual abort test would take place at Kennedy, where astronauts will be launched. Either the company is taking advantage of its second launchpad to save time while Kennedy is in use for Monday’s Dragon launch, or they will actually do this launch abort test out west. In truth the test can be done from Vandenberg. The flight path will be different, but the technical requirements will be essentially the same.

Note that this booster is for the in-flight launch abort flight, scheduled at this moment for July, not the launchpad abort test, scheduled at this moment for May 2.

Also, it is interesting to compare the pictures of SpaceX’s Vandenberg launchpad in this article with the pictures I took when I visited Vandenberg two weeks ago. Then, the pad was quiet, with no rocket visible (though it is likely that this booster stage was inside the building being prepared). Now it is quite busy.

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Planning the first launch abort test of the Dragon capsule.

Planning the first launch abort test of the Dragon capsule.

The in-flight abort test will take place along Florida’s space coast. During the test, a Dragon spacecraft will launch on a standard Falcon 9 rocket and an abort command will be issued approximately 73 seconds into the flight. At that point, the spacecraft will be flying through the area of maximum dynamic pressure, or Max Q, where the combination of air pressure and speed will cause maximal strain on the spacecraft.

Dragon will be outfitted with about 270 special sensors to measure a wide variety of stresses and acceleration effects on the spacecraft. An instrumented mannequin, similar to a crash test dummy, also will be inside. The spacecraft’s parachutes will deploy for a splashdown in the Atlantic, where a ship will be pre-positioned for simulated rescue operations. The test spacecraft will be returned to Port Canaveral by barge so data can be retrieved and incorporated into the system’s design.

The test is presently scheduled for the summer of 2014.

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NASA has delayed the first test flight of Orion’s launch abort system by two years to 2017.

NASA has delayed the first test flight of Orion’s launch abort system by two years to 2017.

NASA officials have been warning since last year that work on Orion would be slowed to keep pace with the development of SLS and its launch infrastructure. The agency has proposed trimming Orion’s $1.2 billion budget back to $1 billion for 2013. With the high-altitude abort test facing at least a budget-driven delay, the Langley team has proposed conducting one or more less-expensive tests in its place. Ortiz said conducting a hot-fire test in 2015 or 2016 would “keep the [launch abort system] project moving forward and help alleviate risk.”

I predict that Dragon will not only test its launch abort system first, it will have humans flying on it before Orion. And Dragon will do this for a fraction of the total cost that Orion and SLS spend per year. I also predict that when Dragon does this, Congress will finally begin noticing this disparity, and SLS will die unlaunched.

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