Nasa has successfully completed the Ascent Abort-2 (AA-2) flight test of the Orion multi-purpose crew vehicle’s launch abort system.

The test is considered to be another milestone in the company’s preparation for Artemis missions to the Moon, leading to astronaut missions to Mars.

The recent launch brings Nasa closer to lunar and Martian missions.

At an altitude of six miles, the Orion test spacecraft experienced high-stress aerodynamic conditions expected during ascent.

Nasa said that its altitude control motor flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for a splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean.

Nasa Washington Exploration Systems Development deputy associate administrator Bill Hill said: “With this exploration system designed to safely carry humans farther into space than ever before, we’ll also have an equally powerful launch abort system that will pull the crew away if there is a problem with the rocket during the early portion of ascent.”

Built for deep space missions, the AA-2 is a test version of the Orion crew module.

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The abort system features a tower-like structure consisting of two parts, namely the fairing assembly composed of a lightweight composite material to protect the capsule from heat and the launch abort tower that includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor.

The test abort system was designed and built by Lockheed Martin, which is also the prime contractor in building the Orion spacecraft for Nasa.

Lockheed Martin Space Orion programme manager Mike Hawes said: “Hopefully, this will be the last time we see this launch abort system ever work, but this test brings confidence that if needed on future Orion missions, it will safely pull the crew module and astronauts away from a life threatening event during launch.”

This is the second time the Orion launch abort system has been put to the test, while the first flight test was launched in 2010 simulating a static abort from the launch pad.

The recently launched AA-2 is the final test and demonstration of the full-up launch abort system.

Nasa’s Orion spacecraft for Artemis 1 mission to the Moon is being developed at its Kennedy Space Centre and is in preparation to be launched next year.