Abort!...In the Event of an Emergency
The Orion Abort Flight Test (AFT) team at Armstrong led the vehicle integration and operations effort for the Orion Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) flight test, which occurred at the White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in May 2010. PA-1 was the first fully integrated flight test of the Launch Abort System (LAS), one of the primary systems within the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle (MPCV). The LAS provides the crew with an escape capability in the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad or during mission vehicle ascent. While the Orion Crew Module (CM) was at Armstrong, engineers and technicians installed instrumentation, electrical wiring, computer systems, avionics, parachutes, thermal ducting, acoustic blankets, and a GPS/inertial navigation system. Vibration and acoustics tests of the Orion CM assessed the effects of an abort motor firing on both the structure and internal electronics. A combined systems test verified the flight readiness of the flight control, antenna, pyrotechnic, and ground control systems.
After the Orion CM was transferred to WSMR, Armstrong expanded its lead of the integration and operations effort, mating the Orion CM with the Orion LAS, followed by the mission operations activity for the highly successful PA-1 flight test.
Work to date: The Orion PA-1 Flight-Test Vehicle integration and operations effort required a significant contribution from the Armstrong workforce, and ultimately culminated in the successful demonstration of an abort capability from the launch pad. Information learned during PA-1 will help certify and refine the LAS design for future human spaceflight missions.
Looking ahead: The Orion LAS is a primary system within the Orion MPCV, which is now part of the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) architecture. The SLS will be used to transport astronauts to
destinations beyond low Earth orbit. Future flight testing (beyond PA-1) will ensure abort capability for the SLS.
Partners: NASA's Johnson Space Center, Langley Research Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center and the Lockheed Martin Corporation
Armstrong's Research and Engineering Directorate is responsible for the overall engineering content of flight research projects. Our engineers provide technical expertise in aerodynamics; guidance, navigation, and control; propulsion; static and dynamic structures; flight hardware and software; flight and ground test instrumentation and data systems; and system engineering and integration. They apply their expertise across the spectrum of Armstrong's many activities and also support the development and continual evolution of engineering tools and test techniques. Here are highlights from a few recent and particularly notable engineering success stories.