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NASA's Launch Abort System Hardware Heads Back Across the Country
Launch abort system mock-up on trailer

The launch abort system pathfinder rests on a flatbed trailer near the launch pad for the Pad Abort 1 flight test. Photo credit: U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range

A full-scale mock-up of the Orion launch abort system (LAS) is heading back across the country. The nearly 45-foot-long mock-up, known as the LAS pathfinder, is hitting the road on a large flatbed trailer to travel from the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

At White Sands, the LAS pathfinder was used to help prepare for the successful Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) flight test, which occurred May 6, 2010.

› Watch PA-1 flight test video highlights

Ground crews used the pathfinder to practice lifting and stacking the launch abort system on the launch pad, to help ready the crew in handling the actual flight test hardware that launched. It will be used similarly at Kennedy to prepare for other Orion spacecraft operations.

On its journey to Florida, the spacecraft hardware will make stops at various museums and science centers so the public can learn more about Orion and the launch abort system.

Launch abort system mock-up

Technicians use the mock-up to test procedures that will be involved in preparing the actual hardware for the Pad Abort 1 flight test. Photo credit: U.S. Army White Sands Missile Range

The planned stops included:
Sept. 28-29: Denver Museum of Nature & Science, Denver
Oct. 2: Orion High School, Orion, Ill.
Oct. 4-7: Adler Planetarium, Chicago
Oct. 9-14: Great Lakes Science Center, Cleveland
Oct. 16-17: The Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
Oct. 23: 2010 EarthFest, Sandy Bottom Nature Park, Hampton, Va.
Oct. 26-Nov. 1: Kennedy Space Center Visitor’s Complex

› View photos of tour

Engineers and technicians at NASA’s Langley Research Center designed and fabricated the hardware, which represents the size, outer shape and specific mass characteristics of the Orion crew exploration vehicle's abort system.

The Orion LAS is an innovative design that will significantly improve astronaut safety for future human space exploration. It is designed to immediately pull the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle during an emergency on the pad or during the climb to orbit.

The Orion Project Office, located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, is leading development of the Orion spacecraft. Development of the LAS is being led by Langley in Hampton, Va. in partnership with the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Lockheed Martin leads a nationwide industry team as the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion spacecraft.

The LAS pathfinder toured several other states during its cross-country trek from Langley to White Sands last year.

› Read more about the 2009 journey