Photos: NASA's MLAS Astronaut Escape Ship Test Launch

The NASA Bullet

NASA

The Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, vehicle features a bullet-shaped forward fairing that covers a simulated crew module, not shown. The vehicle weighs more than 46,000 lbs (20,865 kg) and is 33 feet, 5 inches (10.2 m) tall.

It's Made of Fins

NASA/Sean Smith

The Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) test vehicle features fixed fins and drag plates to inexpensively, yet effectively, simulate deployable fins or other aerodynamic devices that would be used on an operational launch vehicle.

NASA Launches Astronaut Escape Ship in Test

NASA/Sean Smith

The Max Launch Abort System, an astronaut escape ship alternative to NASA's tower-based choice on the Orion vehicles, launched at 6:26 a.m. EDT on July 8, 2009 from the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Max Launch Abort System: How It Works

NASA

The Max Launch Abort System test vehicle is composed of four major structural components. From top, they are the foreward fairing, the crew module simulator, the coast skirt and the boost skirt.

Max Launch Abort System (MLAS)

NASA/Jim Mason Foley

NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on July 8, 2009.

Max Launch Abort System (MLAS)

NASA/Jim Mason Foley

NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on July 8, 2009.

Max Launch Abort System (MLAS)

NASA/Jim Mason Foley

The view of the July 8, 2009 Max Launch Abort System flight from a NASA helicopter over the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Max Launch Abort System (MLAS)

NASA/Jim Mason Foley

NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia during the Max Launch Abort System test on July 8, 2009.

Max Launch Abort System (MLAS)

NASA/Sean Smith

A 'fish-eye' view of preparations at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility taken from above the Max Launch Abort System vehicle.

Max Launch Abort System: Flight Profile

NASA

While the pad abort test begins at liftoff, the demonstration of objectives begins at the seven second mark at burnout of the solid motors.

Astronaut Escape Ship Blasts Off

Watch an astronaut escape ship prototype blast off in this NASA test from the agency's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The prototype is an alternative to the escape system chosen for the new Orio

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