N A S A
f a c t s
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Constellation Program:Project Orion Abort Flight Test
A robust series of flight testsis planned for the rocketsand spacecraft of NASA’sConstellation Program, whichwill support InternationalSpace Station missions inthe next decade, and will laterenable human exploration ofthe moon.Flight tests are where“the rubber meets the road”for America’s new-generationspacecraft. All of the math,engineering and computer-aided design and development work will be putthrough real-world challenges that allow earlycorrection of any design flaws and ensure thevehicles are safe for human use.In the fall of 2008, Pad Abort 1 will begin aseries of five launch abort system flight testsfrom the Orion Abort Flight Test Launch Complexbeing built at the U.S. Army’s White SandsMissile Range near Las Cruces, N.M. Formalgroundbreaking for the new facility occurredNov. 14, 2007. The desert tests are part ofa broader flight test campaign that also willinclude six launches from Kennedy SpaceCenter in Florida.
White Sands Flight Tests
The White Sands flight tests will focus on theability of Orion’s launch abort system to pullthe crew safely away from the launch vehiclein the event of a problem on the launch pador during the climb into orbit. These criticallyimportant tests will assure that all componentsof the new safety feature work, and that Orion’sparachute landing systems function as planned.These flight tests, along with other ground tests,will help managers certify Orion's new launchabort system for flight.• Pad Abort 1 (PA-1): Tests the basicfunctionality of the launch abort system fromthe pad in its preliminary design configuration.• Ascent Abort 1 (AA-1): Tests the abilityof the launch abort system to function whilethe spacecraft is traveling through the periodof maximum atmospheric drag.• Pad Abort 2 (PA-2): Continues to refinethe data collected on PA-1.• Ascent Abort 2 (AA-2): Tests the abilityof the launch abort system to function asthe spacecraft breaks through the speedof sound.• Ascent Abort 3 (AA-3): Tests the abilityof the launch abort system to perform inthe event it is tumbling due to a loss ofcontrol of the launch vehicle.This project was reviewed for environmentalcompliance as required under the NationalEnvironmental Policy Act. NASA published anenvironmental assessment in August for publicand regulatory agency review and received noadverse comments.