NASA catapults new Orion capsule into NM desert

May 06, 2010
The new Orion crew capsule is catapulted into the air on Thursday, May 6, 2010 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., during a test of Orion's launch-abort system, which will whisk astronauts and the capsule to safety in case of a problem on the launch pad, such as a fire, or during the climb to orbit. The Orion capsule was originally designed to take astronauts back to the moon. But President Obama in February killed NASA's $100 billion plans to return to the moon, redirecting the money for new rocket technology research. (AP Photo/Craig Fritz)

(AP) -- NASA engineers catapulted the new Orion crew capsule about a mile into the air Thursday morning as hundreds of people gathered to watch.

The launch at White Sands Missile Range in the barren southern New Mexico desert left a stream of white smoke as the unmanned capsule arched through the sky, deployed a parachute and landed about a mile north of the launch site.

The tests are aimed at Orion's launch-abort system, which will whisk astronauts and the capsule to safety in case of a problem on the launch pad, such as a fire, or during the climb to orbit.

Jeff Sheehy, a engineer working on the capsule, said the test appeared to be successful.

The Orion capsule was originally designed to take astronauts back to the moon. But President in February killed NASA's $100 billion plans to return to the moon, redirecting the money for new rocket technology research.

One proposal is to send the capsule to the to be used as an escape vehicle, so U.S. wouldn't have to rely on the Russian Soyuz for an emergency flight home.

"It will transition to some useful purpose," Sheehy said. "What that is remains to be seen."

Explore further: Having fun with the equation of time

3.8 /5 (4 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA Prepares for First Unmanned Test of Orion

Mar 12, 2008

Returning humans to the moon by 2020 may seem like a distant goal, but NASA's Constellation Program already has scheduled the first test flight toward that goal to take place in less than 12 months.

Obama revives capsule from canceled moon program

Apr 13, 2010

(AP) -- President Barack Obama is reviving the NASA crew capsule concept that he had canceled with the rest of the moon program earlier this year, in a move that will mean more jobs and less reliance on the ...

NASA, ATK Successfully Test First Orion Launch Abort Motor

Nov 21, 2008

(PhysOrg.com) -- Flames shot more than 100 feet high in a successful 5.5-second ground test firing Thursday, Nov. 20, of a launch abort motor for NASA's next generation spacecraft, the Orion crew exploration vehicle. NASA ...

Astronauts to Ride Rails in Emergency

Oct 04, 2007

As NASA revamps Launch Complex 39B to host the new Orion spacecraft and Ares I rocket of the Constellation Program, engineers are preparing to install a new kind of departure system to evacuate astronauts.

Recommended for you

Titan offers clues to atmospheres of hazy planets

17 hours ago

When hazy planets pass across the face of their star, a curious thing happens. Astronomers are not able to see any changes in the range of light coming from the star and planet system.

Having fun with the equation of time

17 hours ago

If you're like us, you might've looked at a globe of the Earth in elementary school long before the days of Google Earth and wondered just what that strange looking figure eight thing on its side was.

The source of the sky's X-ray glow

Jul 27, 2014

In findings that help astrophysicists understand our corner of the galaxy, an international research team has shown that the soft X-ray glow blanketing the sky comes from both inside and outside the solar system.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Nik_2213
not rated yet May 06, 2010
License it to the COTS rocket-builders ? Should make their insurers a lot happier knowing the escape system works...
Doug_Huffman
not rated yet May 06, 2010
Begs the meaning modus ponens of 'catapult'.
ZeroDelta
not rated yet May 06, 2010
I like the COTS idea, since SpaceX and ULA are developing crew vehicles for their rockets.