Launch Abort System Installed and Preps for Shake Tests Being Made as Orion Gears Up for Historic December Launch

An artist's rendering of December's Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) test, which will take the Orion capsule 3,600 miles into space. Image Credit: NASA

An artist’s rendering of December’s Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) test, which will take the Orion capsule 3,600 miles into space. Image Credit: NASA

As NASA gears up for its historic Dec. 4 Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) flight that will test the Orion space capsule’s systems, the agency announced it had installed the Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS). In addition, a large “shake table” was delivered to Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility at the Plum Brook Facility in Sandusky, Ohio, last week, which will simulate the conditions the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV) will experience during a launch aboard what will be the world’s most powerful rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). These developments come during a time when great excitement builds as the EFT-1 launch date approaches.

NASA’s Orion blog detailed the installation of the Launch Abort System (LAS) on top of the Orion capsule to be used for EFT-1, which occurred Friday, Oct. 3. The blog detailed that while this abort system will not be activated for this flight test, in future flights it will be prepared to “act within milliseconds to pull the spacecraft and its astronaut crew away from its rocket so the Orion could parachute back to Earth safely” in case trouble arises during an ascent.

Technicians install the Launch Abort System (LAS) on top of Orion's capsule in preparations for December's flight test. Photo Credit: NASA

Technicians install the Launch Abort System (LAS) on top of Orion’s capsule in preparations for December’s flight test. Photo Credit: NASA

For December’s test, a jettison motor is installed on the LAS so the system can pull itself and Orion’s nose fairing away prior to the capsule being inserted into Earth’s orbit. This maneuver will function as sort of a test of the jettison motor. According to NASA’s Steven Siceloff, the full LAS was tested in 2010, and another test will take place called Ascent Abort-2.

In further testing news, while the Space Launch System (SLS) launch vehicle is not slated to be tested for over two more years, engineers are about to test how the Orion capsule will stand up to the tremendous power of what has been billed as the world’s most powerful launch system. NASA announced that a “22-foot-wide, 55,000-pound-vibrating-stimulating” table was delivered to the Glenn Research Center’s Space Power Facility last week to simulate the conditions of an SLS launch. The table will be used first to test the European Space Agency (ESA)-built service module for Orion which will fly during a future flight test (Exploration Mission-1). According to NASA, it will also be used to test the capsule in simulations of the massive forces generated during a possible launch abort.

From NASA: "A 22-foot-wide, 55,000-pound vibration-simulating table is lowered into place at the Space Power Facility in Sandusky, Ohio." Photo Credit: NASA

From NASA: “A 22-foot-wide, 55,000-pound vibration-simulating table is lowered into place at the Space Power Facility in Sandusky, Ohio.” Photo Credit: NASA

Jerry Carek, Space Power Facility manager, discussed the vital importance of such a piece of testing hardware: “Launch is the most dynamic and dangerous part of spaceflight. It takes an incredible amount of power for a rocket to boost a spacecraft like Orion into space. And all that power results in intense shaking. Spacecraft systems have to be specially designed to work in spite of the vibration – this table lets us test them to make sure that they do.”

While the LAS system will not be active during December’s flight, the Orion capsule will be tested for integrity of features that are crucial to future crew safety during deep space missions to asteroids or even perhaps Mars. The Orion capsule will be rocketed into orbit aboard a Delta IV Heavy launch vehicle from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 37 and will reach an apogee of approximately 3,600 miles from Earth during its two-orbit trip.

Following its orbits, it will perform a high-energy reentry, slamming into Earth’s atmosphere at approximately 20,000 miles per hour. This simulates what the Orion capsule will endure returning from a deep space mission. Reentry, for any space mission, is very risky due to high temperatures generated. The Orion capsule to be flown during EFT-1 is fully outfitted with sensors, which will provide valuable data to engineers as they further refine capsule parameters. The flight of EFT-1 and its goals are underscored in this NASA video released today, very appropriately called “Trial by Fire”:

“Orion: Trial By Fire,” Courtesy of ReelNASA

This mission has often been characterized as “this generation’s Apollo 4,” which tested the Apollo capsule’s systems in November 1967. NASA continues to generate enthusiasm over December’s launch as this week it unveiled a “boarding pass” where space fans could send their name aboard the EFT-1 spacecraft. For those interested in sending their name to space, check out this NASA link.

Stay tuned to AmericaSpace as we continue to provide updates about December’s EFT-1 mission.

 

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Missions » SLS » EFT-1 »

16 comments to Launch Abort System Installed and Preps for Shake Tests Being Made as Orion Gears Up for Launch

  • Tracy The Troll

    Does anyone know current Development Costs todate? I read somewhere that SLS launches will cost about $2B per….Can Orion be put on anything smaller than an SLS and be mission usable?

    • Mark P

      It would require multiple launches. One rocket to place Orion in earth orbit and another to carry a propulsion module to boost it beyond.

    • Joe

      Tracy,

      The inflated costs per flight you read about for the SLS are based on the low flight rates assumed by the current administration and it’s politically appointed NASA leadership.

      If you assume that your program will be so unambitious that it will only fly once a year (or even once every two years) then the cost per flight will be very high because those very few flights have to absorb the fixed cost of being able to fly at all.

      That would be true of any launcher.

      It is a shell game intended to provoke exactly the reaction it just provoked in you.

      • Tracy The Troll

        Joe,
        I read it in an Air & space article…Which was interesting because it stated that an SLS booster could get a payload to Saturn in 2 years rather than 5 with anything smaller…

        Is there a new market that will emerge directly for the SLS and Orion that will be filled once it is operational? Maybe a cheap mission to Mars? Is the SLS needed to put a large amount of payload on the moon…

        Also considering that NASA is now looking a hibernating the astronauts for the trip maybe NASA is a lot further along in leaving LEO than what everybody thinks…Still I am thinking my best bet of getting off the planet is through SpaceX…What say you?

        • Joe

          “Is there a new market that will emerge directly for the SLS and Orion that will be filled once it is operational?”

          In my opinion no and that is the point. The only thing that is going to produce a viable BEO market is if the government decides it really wants to support such a program. Sadly that is not going to happen any time in the near future.

          “Also considering that NASA is now looking a hibernating the astronauts for the trip maybe NASA is a lot further along in leaving LEO than what everybody thinks”

          I would be interested in seeing what the reporters on this website think of the suspended animation “program”. My own impression (based on talking to people I know) is that this relatively low level financed concept (along with others like reactionless drives and Faster Than Light Propulsion) is an artifact of the current situation. A number of well-intentioned civil servants still have jobs, but insufficient staffs (not to mention goals) to work on something real. They demand things to do and get small grants to look at their own pet projects like this. I have nothing against the suspended animation concept, but there does not appear to be any serious attempt to implement it at this time.

          “Still I am thinking my best bet of getting off the planet is through SpaceX…What say you?”

          Sadly – and I suspect this comes as no surprise to you – No I do not.

          • Tracy The Troll

            Joe,
            Maybe a better chance might be a trip on a Dream Chaser modified to fly on StratoLaunch with an Orbital Booster which with some additional modifications could be a completely reusealble system that would not be impacted by weather delays or range issues… That could then meet up with a Bigelowe Space Station/Ship and using the “astro fight path” of the India craft MOM get to Mars on the cheap…Then use a Dragon Crew V2 to Land and then take off in 6 months for a return trip and all for under $10B….What say you?

  • john hare

    Tracy,
    I’m not Joe, but I have quite strong opinions on the matter. Your best chance is if someone develops a real market for commercial entities to fight over. No milestone payments or imitation markets funded by the taxpayer. Real commercial competition for a serious ROI.

    Most of the people on this blog disagree with me in a civil manner. That’s okay. I don’t believe either the government or business will develop space without serious tangible benefits understandable to whoever is footing the bill. Apollo had an international political ROI that could be clearly seen by most people up to a point. The program got cancelled after that point. Comsats have a financial ROI that is understandable to the shareholders.

    Find a tangible ROI for somebody with the resources and space will develop along with your chance to go. Until then, ain’t happening by SpaceX, NASA or anybody else. My personal belief in various ROI for certain projects has little to no bearing on the belief of others.

    • Tracy The Troll

      John,
      At some point in the distant future we will be told why the space program did not go from government immediately to the private sector for manned flight…Perhaps it was the National Security implications alone that could not be resolved…Clearly when one looks pragmatically at the decisions being made by the ruling elite on this planet the resulting answer that I come up is not if the Earth will be destroyed by Man but when…I do not think I am alone in this assessment. This realization alone will drive decisions to create market solutions to leave Earth for the Moon, Orbiting Space Cites, and Mars…As an example less than a year ago the car manufactures were saying that fully autonomous cars would not be in the market until 2025…With Google’s constant push to find people more time to use search and thus generate revenue they have gone and created technology systems that are proving to be far more mature than anyone believed. As such I think we will see fully autonomous cars in 2018…With SpaceX demonstrating reusable capabilities and then suddenly we have SNC studying a relationship with Stratolaunch…Spacecraft Reuseablity will completely change the industry … and very quickly…I just hope it is soon enough.

      • Joe

        “At some point in the distant future we will be told why the space program did not go from government immediately to the private sector for manned flight…Perhaps it was the National Security implications alone that could not be resolved…”

        “This realization alone will drive decisions to create market solutions to leave Earth for the Moon, Orbiting Space Cites, and Mars…”

        Tracy,

        The problem with that scenario is that the
        – Capital Investment
        – Technical Risk
        – Return On Investment (ROI) period

        are all too great to allow generation of private capital to accomplish the desired goal.

        That is why a government program to “buy down” all those things is required. The problem is we (so far) have not gotten our act together to perform that buy down.

        • Tracy The Troll

          Joe,

          “The problem with that scenario is that the
          – Capital Investment
          – Technical Risk
          – Return On Investment (ROI) period…”

          I think that a new form of shared Capital Investment will be created based on indentured servitude similar to how people came from Europe to America. The Technical Risk will be addressed by strong AI before this can be accomplished but will be available quicker than we realize. The ROI will set to include more inclusive forms such as Labor of Service Contracted. Several groups who support the Climate Change models believe that we are entering an era of severe Climate Calamity. Perhaps this their way realizing what might happens by locating our nuclear power plants adjacent to the Ocean and the subsequent hurricanes or typhoons…

          The government has not gotten their act together because they do NOT want masses of people leaving the planet and the subsequent tax revenues being reduced…No I do think this will occur as soon the masses see the ability to leave Earth…The parts are all being put into place..

          • Joe

            “I think that a new form of shared Capital Investment will be created based on indentured servitude similar to how people came from Europe to America.”

            That would certainly change the way the world currently works. I would suggest we suspend this conversation until that happens.

      • john hare

        Tracy,
        We don’t need to wait for someone to tell us why the private sector didn’t take over manned spaceflight. There was no ROI sufficient to incentivize private players with the resources to develop the transportation vehicles. Governments didn’t support private players. Therefore it didn’t happen.

        It is happening now due to a variety of developments over several decades. A few relatively young wealthy people with an interest in space that weren’t around until recently. Shareholders in major corporations generally hold a dim view of long term and high risk projects without visible returns.

        The internet makes information far more readily available to people with an interest. I am an inventor. One idea I had in the early 1990s cost me a few thousand dollars and some days off work for a trip to Huntsville to check out. Today I sometimes blog a similar idea at selenianboondocks.com and get feedback the same day. A bad idea does not consume months of my time anymore as the flaws are quickly pointed out. The small contributions I have made are largely because I haven’t been wasting as much time on the unfeasible ideas. Multiply my experiences by millions of other people with ideas and you get some idea of how the internet affects spaceflight.

        The ROI for human spaceflight is still highly speculative. The pieces coming together now just didn’t exist 20 years ago. Individuals able to accept the financial risk in retiring the technical risk that have an idea of a way to get returns are fairly new to spaceflight. No conspiracy required.

        • Tracy The Troll

          John,

          A while back I read a book on the STO program (Single Stage to Orbit) that was to replace the shuttle… ” Halfway to Anywhere” by Stein (I bought it on Amazon for $.01 and $3.99 shipping) It was an amazing look into how the government space program post Apollo was set up to only proceed with the most expensive and complicated programs so that it would employ the most people and allow for constant change orders that resulted from numerous agencies to insure that programs where measured in years and costs billions…Everything was over engineered… simple solutions were thrown out…This became the frame work for Government Space Systems…By 1996 The shuttle program was to be replaced by the Venture Star by Lockheed Martin. The X-33 was a prototype to the Venture Star. The X-33 completed two of three major milestones, the Aerospike Engines, and a new heat shield system. The final piece that failed was the carbon fiber fuel tank that could NOT hold up to the pressure…LM asked the government for $500M more as the government already had $1B into it… GWB comes into office in 2000 said no and then killed the program…In 2004 Grumman perfected a process to create the carbon fiber fuel tank…To me this technology is sitting on the shelf at LM waiting for the “Market” for cheap access to space to emerge…Why sell a system that only costs millions when you can sell a system that costs billions…The Opportunity Rover on Mars is still operating after 10 years for a mission that was designed for 90 days….Was it over engineered or did the engineers not know their climate parameters? how could they not know about the wind on Mars that keeps blowing the sand off the solar panels…The point that I am making is that Space Technology costs have been artificially kept high to maintain cash flows to a very few while severally limiting access to space… How else does one explain the success that SpaceX has had or the ISRO on a budget of less than 1/2 of 1% of NASA?

        • Good points, especially on the high beta of “commercial” space.

          Anyone who has run a business will say that you know when there’s a market opportunity. If you’re not moving you’ll get run-over by those rushing-in, chased by investors, to take your place and your profits. I rather think, if using the history of flight as an analogy, we are somewhere in the first decade of the 20th Century; we can fly but we don’t yet have a true rocket and spacecraft that are any safer for none-daredevils than they are commercially viable. SpaceX may be making the equivalent of the Ford Tri-Motor, Blue Origin the DC-1, but we’re still a decade or more away from a DC-3. And very much unlike that time, investors are not rushing-in to the launch industry; far from it.

  • john hare

    When discussing X-33/Venturestar, remember to think about ALS, NLS, Nasp, X-34, Aries, and other systems canceled before first flight, not to mention DCX that was shelved after proving itself. A manager that crashes a vehicle is crucified in the press while one in charge of a cancelled program gets a pass. Congressional pork, corruption (mostly quite legal), empire building, and turf wars adequately explain lack of progress for government systems. Everyone there with a good idea must carry a bureaucracy on their backs that is near paralyzing. That is actually my basis for thinking that SLS will never fly, along with the cost.

    Private players capable of doing the job are just now beginning to emerge. Useful goals and motivation will make the difference. Have patience to avoid being in the position of those that buy their dream house before they can really afford it, only to have their house own them instead.

  • Tracy The Troll

    So you have illustrated completely that a robust space market is not going to be created by government other than for specific periods of project time…