Today morning, NASA has successfully launched a safety test mission for its Orion space capsule, the last and most important step to prove the reliability of Orion spacecraft to be used for missions to the moon and into deep space.
The test was focused on the launch abort system (LAS), a tower mounted on top of the Orion capsule which is activated in case the larger rocket that pushes Orion has such a malfunction as to put the astronauts' safety at risk. As planned, the escape tower was activated shortly after the launch, causing Orion to detach and take it to safety: the test was performed without a crew on board.
The tower abort system consists of two parts.
The first part is the fairing assembly, which is a shell made of a lightweight composite material that protects the capsule from the heat, airflow, and acoustics of the launch during the most challenging part of the mission, which is the ascent phase.
The second part is the launch abort tower, which includes the abort motor, attitude control motor, and jettison motor. The system is built specifically for deep space missions and to ride on NASA’s powerful Space Launch System (SLS) rocket.
The capsule should be used within a couple of years with the Space Launch System (SLS). A large and powerful rocket that will have the responsibility of launching Orion into the lunar orbit, under the new Artemis program to return to the Moon.
Artemis 1, the first mission of the space program, will be performed without crew and is part of the very ambitious initiatives imposed by the government of Donald Trump to bring the astronauts back to the moon starting from 2024.