Jul 2, 2019

NASA tests system to pull astronauts to safety during rocket failure

The Orion test spacecraft launching on a test of its abort system. Photo: NASA

NASA successfully tested the escape system for the Orion crew capsule Tuesday that would be used to pull a crew of astronauts away from a failing rocket in the moments after launch.

Why it matters: This uncrewed test marked an important step toward NASA's goal of landing astronauts back on the surface of the Moon as part of its Artemis program by 2024.

NASA hopes to use its Orion capsule and Space Launch System (SLS) rocket to make that mission a reality. The first test flight for the integrated system is expected in 2020, though some reports suggest it will likely be delayed.

Details: The test took about 3 minutes, with a test version of Orion flying to an altitude of about 6 miles attached to a modified Peacekeeper missile, according to NASA.

  • The abort was then triggered, and Orion was pulled away from the rocket by its abort motor.
  • From there, the abort system's attitude control motor "flipped the capsule end-over-end to properly orient it, and then the jettison motor fired, releasing the crew module for splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean," NASA said in a statement.
  • During a typical abort, Orion would deploy parachutes to slow its speed before splashdown, but in this case, NASA allowed the test article to crash into the ocean instead.
  • NASA will now spend time analyzing the data gathered during the test and collecting the flight recorders jettisoned by Orion on its way back to Earth.

Between the lines: While the test appears to have been a success, it's also been a long time coming. The Orion and SLS programs have experienced years of delays due to budget and technical issues.

Go deeper

Trump touts press briefing "ratings" as U.S. coronavirus case surge

Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images.

President Trump sent about a half-dozen tweets on Sunday touting the high television ratings that his coronavirus press briefings have received, selectively citing a New York Times article that compared them to "The Bachelor" and "Monday Night Football."

Why it matters: The president has been holding daily press briefings in the weeks since the coronavirus pandemic was declared, but news outlets have struggled with how to cover them live — as Trump has repeatedly been found to spread misinformation and contradict public health officials.

World coronavirus updates: Total cases surge to over 700,000

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens and confirmed plus presumptive cases from the CDC

There are now than more than 700,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins. The virus has now killed more than 32,000 people — with Italy alone reporting over 10,000 deaths.

The big picture: Governments around the world have stepped up public health and economic measures to stop the spread of the virus and soften the financial impact. In the U.S., now the site of the largest outbreak in the world, President Trump said Saturday he would issue a "strong" travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 28 mins ago - Health

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 704,095 — Total deaths: 33,509 — Total recoveries: 148,824.
  2. U.S.: Leads the world in cases. Total confirmed cases as of 2 p.m. ET: 132,637 — Total deaths: 2,351 — Total recoveries: 2,612.
  3. Federal government latest: The first federal prisoner to die from coronavirus was reported from a correctional facility in Louisiana on Sunday.
  4. Public health updates: Fauci says 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from virus.
  5. State updates: Louisiana governor says state is on track to exceed ventilator capacity by end of this week — Cuomo says Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked" people
  6. World updates: Italy on Sunday reported 756 new deaths, bringing its total 10,779. Spain reported almost 840 dead, another new daily record that bring its total to over 6,500.
  7. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

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