NASA tested a critical component of the Orion spacecraft this week with the Ascent Abort-2 flight test at Cape Canaveral. The test lasted about three minutes and used a test version of the Orion crew module. The Orion was pushed into the sky to an altitude of 6-miles atop a modified Peacekeeper missile that was procured through the U.S. Air Force and built by Northrop Grumman.
The test saw the Orion spacecraft travel to an altitude of six miles where it experienced the expected high-stress aerodynamic conditions for an ascent. The abort sequence triggered and in milliseconds the abort motor fired to pull the crew module away from the rocket. The attitude control motor fired to flip the capsule and properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fire to release the crew module for a splashdown into the Atlantic Ocean.
During the test, there were 12 data recorders ejected, and all of them have been recovered. Those data recorders are all in sealed containers that float and have beacons to help with recovery. Analysis of that data will give insight to the abort system’s performance.
The test is the latest milestone for the preparation for the Artemis missions to the Moon and missions that will eventually take humans to Mars. The video above was shot by NASA and shows the abort system firing. It’s difficult to tell in some parts of the footage precisely what is going on thanks to the smoke from the rocket engines firing.
Mission managers say that a quick look at the data on the recorders showed that the mission went well. The rocket was traveling at over 800 mph when the abort was activated.