NASA tests alternative launch abort system

July 8, 2009 at 11:58 AM
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WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., July 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. space agency says it has successfully demonstrated an alternate launch abort system designed to allow astronauts to escape from their launch vehicle.

The Max Launch Abort System was tested Wednesday at 6:26 a.m. EDT at NASA's Wallops Island, Va., flight facility.

"The unpiloted launch tested an alternate concept for safely propelling a future spacecraft and its crew away from a problem on the launch pad or during ascent," NASA said, noting the system consists of four solid rocket abort motors inside a bullet-shaped composite fairing attached to a mock crew module.

Officials said the 33-foot-high escape vehicle was launched to an altitude of approximately one mile to simulate an emergency on the launch pad. The crew module mock-up then parachuted into the Atlantic Ocean.

NASA has chosen another launch abort system for the Orion spacecraft. That system has a single solid launch abort motor in a tower mounted at the top of the launch vehicle stack of the Orion and Ares I rocket. Space agency engineers said it will be capable of automatically separating the spacecraft from the rocket at a moment's notice in the event of an emergency.

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