NASA Sets Launch Date for Orion Spacecraft Abort System Test

NASA will test the launch abort system of its new crewed Orion capsule on June 12, marking the second escape system test for the agency's next crewed spaceship.

"The test will show Orion's Launch Abort System can carry a crew to safety in case of an emergency during launch," NASA officials wrote in a Twitter update Wednesday (Feb. 20). 

Called Ascent Abort-2, the upcoming uncrewed test will launch from a pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and last less than 3 minutes. Once Orion reaches an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,448 meters) about 55 seconds after liftoff, the tower-mounted abort rocket motor will rip the Orion space capsule from its booster to simulate a launch emergency escape. 

Related: How Risky Spacecraft Launch Aborts Work (Infographic)

An artist's illustration of NASA's Orion space capsule's Ascent Abort-2 test launch. NASA will launch the test flight on June 12 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

(Image credit: NASA)

That abort maneuver will fling the Orion capsule up 2 miles (3 km) in just 15 seconds, according to a NASA video description. At 44,000 feet (13,411 m), a jettison motor will pull the abort system tower free of the Orion capsule, but NASA does not plan to recover the capsule itself. 

Instead, the Orion capsule will jettison its flight data recorders so a NASA recovery team can retrieve them later. The capsule itself will crash into the Atlantic Ocean since it is not equipped with parachutes that would slow a typical Orion landing for splashdown. 

Like its name suggest, Abort Ascent-2 is the second abort system test for Orion. the first, called Pad Abort-1, launched in May 2010 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to demonstrate a launchpad escape. 

Orion is designed to launch on NASA's new Space Launch System megarocket, which is currently under development. The first uncrewed SLS launch, called Exploration Mission 1, is scheduled for mid-2020 with the first crewed Orion mission (Exploration Mission 2) to follow in mid-2022. 

 Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and Facebook. 

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