The Orion PA-1 flight test crew module is unloaded from a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17 at Dryden after a ferry flight from Holloman Air Force Base, near White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) The boilerplate crew module that was the focus of the May 6 Orion Launch Abort System Pad Abort-1 flight test at the U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico has been returned to Dryden. The crew module and its separation ring were airlifted to Dryden June 15 from Holloman Air Force Base aboard a Mississippi Air National Guard C-17.
Although plans did not originally call for the crew module to be reused due to the high-risk nature of the PA-1 test flight, the module and its systems survived the test with only minor damage, according to Orion Abort Flight Test project manager Brent Cobleigh, so can be put to further use.
"The success of the PA-1 launch has opened an opportunity to re-fly the PA-1 crew module on another launch abort test flight in 2012, which will save time in the schedule and significantly lower costs," Cobleigh said. "The NASA team is putting together plans for this flight, which would test the launch abort system at a point in the ascent trajectory, near the speed of sound, where structural loads are very high."
The Orion PA-1 test module is moved carefully into the space shuttle hangar, where Dryden crews will prepare it for another flight research mission. (NASA Photo / Tony Landis) Cobleigh said Dryden engineers and technicians will spend several months inspecting and re-qualifying all the crew module systems, including the flight control computers, navigation systems, instrumentation and parachute systems.
The launch abort system developed for the Orion is being designed to offer a safe and reliable method of removing an astronaut crew from danger should an emergency occur on the launch pad or during a spacecraft's ascent to space.