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Orion Launch-Abort System

  • Category
    Science & Technology
  • Published
    16th Jul, 2019

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has carried out a successful test of a Launch-Abort System (LAS) at Cape Canaveral in Florida for the Orion capsule designed to take US astronauts to the Moon.

Context

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has carried out a successful test of a Launch-Abort System (LAS) at Cape Canaveral in Florida for the Orion capsule designed to take US astronauts to the Moon.

About

More on news:

  • An unmanned Orion capsule was launched by a mini-rocket - a repurposed first stage of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
  • The test of the Orion’s LAS is also known as the Ascent Abort Test-2 (AA-2).
  • It is designed to activate in the event of a rocket malfunction, on the pad or in flight.
  • This is the US equivalent of an emergency system used last October to bring a Russian cosmonaut and a US astronaut safely back to earth when a problem emerged with their Soyuz rocket shortly after lift-off from Kazakhstan.
  • The aim was to test in almost real-life conditions the evacuation of astronauts from the Orion capsule in the event of an explosion or other problem shortly after launch of the rocket taking them into space.
  • The test is a milestone in NASA's preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon that will ultimately lead to astronaut missions to Mars.
  • This mission is a first unmanned test flights for the new lunar program, which will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon by the year 2024 and develop a sustainable human presence on the Moon by the year 2028.

Orion Capsule

  • Orion is the safest multi-purpose spacecraft ever built, which will execute the Artemis program.
  • Orion’s LAS is an integral part of ensuring safe spaceflight.
  • This state-of-the-art crew escape system is attached to the top of the spacecraft and can propel the crew module away from the rocket within milliseconds should a life-threatening event arise during launch.

Demonstration by the test

  • In the test, an unmanned Orion capsule was launched by a mini-rocket.
  • 55 seconds after the launch, at an altitude of 9,500 m, a rocket-powered tower on top of the crew module ignited its engines to quickly pull the Orion away from a hypothetical rocket experiencing problems.
  • In just 15 seconds, the capsule gained two miles of altitude. Then the tower reoriented the capsule to prepare it for descent and disengagement from the tower, finally the crew module fell into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • In real-life conditions, parachutes would also open to ease the manned capsule's fall toward the Atlantic Ocean.
  • In this exercise, however, parachutes were not used because they are very expensive and have already been tested many times.
  • The capsule fell into the water and after ejecting its black box recorders, was allowed to sink.

Project Artemis:

  • It is $1.6 billion project of NASA to send the next man and first woman to the moon by 2024.
  • Its timing is in synchronous with the Apollo lunar project of 1969, the 50th anniversary of the culmination of which is this year.
  • Under the plan, a mission to land on the moon would take place during the third launch of the Space Launch System. Astronauts, including the first woman to walk on the moon would first stop at the orbiting lunar outpost. They would then take a lander to the surface near its south pole, where frozen water exists within the craters.
  • NASA is seeking $132 million from the country’s Congress for developing technologies like converting ice within craters at the moon’s poles to water and $90 million for robotic exploration of the moon.

Why this particular name?

  • The mission is named Artemis after the twin sister of Greek god Apollo, whose name was used by NASA for the series of spacecraft that first landed Americans on the moon in 1969.
  • In Greek mythology, Artemis was the Moon goddess. It is also the nomenclature for the goddess of the hunt. Her faithful hunting companion was named Orion, just like the spacecraft.
  • NASA has announced that Artemis would refer to the major upcoming missions concerned with establishing a permanent presence on the Moon. This includes all the major missions to explore the lunar surface, as well as any constructing infrastructure there or in lunar orbit, for example the planned Lunar Orbital Platform-Gateway.
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