NASA flight test, Pad Abort 1 (PA-1), was conducted at the Orion Abort Flight Test Launch Complex 32E at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) near Las Cruces, N.M. on May 6, 2010.

Flight test PA-1 was used to evaluate the launch abort system (LAS) currently under development.

The LAS is designed to activate within milliseconds in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial ascent. It consists of three motors: the abort motor that fires nearly 500,000 pounds of thrust to pull the crew module up and away from the launch vehicle; the attitude control motor (ACM) that exerts up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to reorient the vehicle’s position; and the jettison motor that separates the crew module from the launch abort system so that parachutes can be deployed for a safe landing.

The LAS employs an attitude control motor (seen as the star-shaped rocket nozzles near the top of the launch system) that provides precision control of flight by utilizing a variable high-thrust rocket technology that eliminates heavy ballast, aerodynamic canards and reliance on static aerodynamic stability without control that were used in Apollo designs. The technology heritage of the attitude control motor is related to missile steering systems, but has never been produced at this large scale (the attitude control motor is 32 inches in diameter). The ACM development employs advanced high-temperature, high-pressure and high-strength composite materials technologies that are adaptable to future space exploration applications.

NASA is calling the test “wildly successful.”

Starfire® Systems Polymer-to-Ceramic™ products were used in the construction of components in the attitude control motor (ACM) being developed and used in the NASA launch abort system.

Click here for more detailed information about the PA-1 test flight from the website.

NASA Flight Test PA-1