Volume XX-08 Number 10
Early last year, the Wallops Flight Facility embarked on a challenging effort to support NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) with the development of a composite crew module for the Exploration Orion spacecraft.
The NESC will design, develop, and test an alternate concept launch abort system (LAS) for the Orion crew module (CM) as a risk mitigation for the Orion Project’s LAS development.
Having an effective means for the crew to escape in an emergency during launch is critical in establishing launch system reliability and crew safety for the Ares-I launch vehicle.
An alternate LAS design could reduce overall schedule risk by providing the Constellation Program management with a fallback design concept.
Due to LAS complexity, a flight demonstration is necessary to validate design and performance assumptions in a safetycritical system such as the LAS.
An alternative LAS also must meet all performance requirements of extracting the Orion CM from the launch vehicle at any time from crew ingress at the launch pad through staging and successful ignition of the second stage of the Ares-I.
Using an intra-agency technical team and working with industry partners, the NESC is developing a launch abort concept that can be used for all launch abort conditions and for a nominal launch consistent with Constellation Program requirements.
The concept is known as the Max Launch Abort System (MLAS).
It will be designed to lift the Orion CM from the launch pad to an altitude high Max Launch Abort System Development enough and with enough distance downrange to permit the CM to execute a nominal landing.
In addition to a wealth of solid rocket motor knowledge and experience at Wallops, the NESC found an engineering staff wellsuited to rapid-response system development. Personnel from many Wallops organizations have joined the MLAS team.
The Wallops’ Guidance, Navigation & Control and Mission Systems Engineering Branch, have supported design and flight dynamics analysis. Representatives from NASA’s Advanced Projects Office and the Range and Mission Management Office have continued their project and vehicle management roles.
Team members from the Electrical Engineering Branch are designing the avionics system and electrical GSE.
The System Software Engineering Branch is supporting test and verification of vehicle avionics and providing Mission Planning Lab resources for project simulation and presentation.
Mechanical Systems Branch (MSB) personnel are designing mechanical GSE for testing, integration, handling, and transportation, as well as working with the Northrop Grumman group on vehicle mechanical interfaces and designing the custom MLAS launch pedestal.
MSB personnel also are designing the coast ring chute separation system and the landing parachute experiment system in addition to providing technical oversight on the reorientation drogue system.
Representatives from the Sounding Rockets Program Office and NASA Sounding Rocket Operations Contract, (NSROC), have provided technical support associated with the solid rocket motor systems. NSROC will play a major role in vehicle hardware and mechanical GSE fabrication.
Team members from the Facilities Management Branch are responsible for procurement and construction of a custom launch pad shelter and for infrastructure improvements related to transportation of the MLAS demonstrator from the Wallops Main Base to the launch site on Wallops Island.
MLAS performance will be evaluated through an actual pad abort test from Wallops Island in Fall, 2008.
Wallops personnel can be proud of their accomplishments thus far as they mark another milestone in supporting manned spaceflight.
Looking back to 1959, Wallops Island was the test site for Little Joe, the subscale demonstration vehicle for the Mercury launch abort system. Have we come full MLAS NASA Graphic circle?