Orion Pad Abort Test Set for May 6

The launch abort vehicle stands ready for launch at the Orion Abort Flight Test Launch Complex 32E. Credit: U.S. Army White Sands Test Facility.


With hundreds of tests and verifications officially complete, members of the Flight Test Readiness Review board unanimously agreed that Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) is ready for launch May 6 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Often in a readiness review prior to any launch, there are open items that need to be closed before a mission gets the “go-ahead.” If there is an issue with hardware or software, the launch date could be delayed until it is fixed. However, on April 22, the PA-1 team concluded that all flight and support hardware and software are flight ready, launch facilities and range assets are in place and that the flight test team is prepared to execute PA-1 efficiently, effectively, and safely.

Launch Abort System manager Kevin Rivers and LAS chief engineer David McGowan, both of NASA Langley attended the review board in White Sands.

“The PA-1 Flight Test Readiness Board granted a unanimous endorsement for flight,” Rivers said on Friday. “In doing so the board commended the project driving the risk of this flight to as low as could be expected for a test flight. It was an endorsement of the commitment and tireless efforts of the Launch Abort System team to ready this system for the historic flight of the Orion Launch Abort System, paving the way to safe and reliable space travel.”

PA-1 is the first fully integrated flight test of the launch abort system being developed for the Orion crew exploration vehicle. The test is part of an ongoing mission to develop safer vehicles for human spaceflight applications.

The only question mark for the launch is the weather with the major constraint being wind. The flight test team will monitor the weather closely on test day, leading up to the targeted 9 a.m. EDT launch.