March 4, 2009

NASA mock-up abort system starts trek

A mock-up of NASA's Orion launch abort system began a week-long U.S. trailer trip this week, en route to the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

Once at White Sands, the rocket-like structure will help National Aeronautics and Space Administration technicians prepare for this year's abort system test, called Pad Abort 1.

The nearly 45-foot-long launch abort system mock-up, known as the LAS pathfinder, represents the size, outer shape and specific mass characteristics of the Orion crew exploration vehicle's abort system, NASA said. It will be used to help ground crews practice for handling the actual flight test hardware that will be launched later this year.

The system will provide a safe escape route for astronauts in the Orion crew capsule if there is a problem on the launch pad or during ascent into low Earth orbit atop the Ares I rocket, NASA said.

During its journey from the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., where it was constructed, the LAS pathfinder will visit museums in Nashville, Tenn.; Oklahoma City; Amarillo, Texas, and Alamogordo, N.M.