Washington: US space agency NASA has successfully tested an emergency abort system for the space shuttle`s successor, Orion, at a remote test site in the New Mexico desert.
The emergency system used powerful rocket motors to blast
the crew module off the launch site yesterday, shooting it 1.9
kilometres into the air in six seconds at high rates of speed,
then wafting it back to Earth on a parachute.
"This system is much more advanced in capability and
technology than any abort system designed in the past," said
Doug Cooke, a NASA associate administrator for the Exploration
Systems Mission Directorate based in Washington.
"NASA strives to make human spaceflight as safe as
possible, and what we learnt here today will greatly
contribute to that goal," he said in a statement after the
The space agency said the test lasted 135 seconds from
launch to touchdown 1.6 kilometres north of the launch pad at
the US Army`s White Sands Missile Range.
An abort motor, powered by three rockets, unleashed a
half-million pounds of thrust to lift the craft at a rate of
720 kilometres per hour in the first three seconds.
Steering the module on its upward trajectory was a second
motor that fired simultaneously with the abort motor, using
eight thrusters to produced 7,000 pounds of thrust.
When the abort motor burned out, a third motor ignited to
separate the module from the abort system before deploying a
NASA said it was the first US-designed abort system of
its kind to be tested since the iconic Apollo generation space
The Orion capsule, originally designed to take astronauts
back to the moon, is a surviving component of the
Constellation manned space exploration program cancelled by
President Barack Obama in February for being behind schedule
and over budget.