Friday, August 28, 2009

Next-gen spacecraft stops at Holloman

NASA's next generation of manned spacecraft leaves Holloman Air Force Base, N.M. Aug. 21 enroute to White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The module was escorted on base by 49th Security Forces Squadron Airmen and off base by officers from the New Mexico State Police and the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Motor Transportation Division along with deputies from the Otero County Sheriff's Department. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Michael Means)

HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. (AFNS) -- NASA's next generation of a manned-spacecraft made a stop at Holloman AFB on its way to White Sands Missile Range, N.M. where launch abort tests will be performed.

The Orion Program's Pad Abort One Crew Module arrived here Aug. 19 via a C-17 Globemaster III and left aboard a tractor-trailer Aug. 21 for WSMR. The crew module has a launch abort system used to for the crew to escape from the launch rocket should something go wrong on the pad or during the ascent to orbit.

Holloman AFB was a vital stop because of the base's close proximity to WSMR and its ability to receive aircraft with heavy cargo.

"It would have been pretty much impossible to get this capsule out here if we were unable to land at Holloman," said Jeff Doughty, the Pad Abort One Flight Test Vehicle crew chief.

The base's reliable support also helped in the decision to bring the module through here.

"We've received excellent support from (Holloman)," said David McAllister, the Dryden Flight Research Center lead of operations for the abort flight test. "We feel like we're at home when we're here."

Holloman AFB was just one leg in the spacecraft's journey to WSMR. It was built at NASA Langley, Va., and flown to Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif., to have the avionics and instrumentation installed. When installation was complete, the spacecraft was flown to Holloman AFB, then driven to to its final destination at a launch site on WSMR for testing.

Mr. Doughty said the module is going to WSMR to demonstrate that it can be taken away from the launch pad, ensuring astronauts can get away from the pad in the event of an emergency.

Billed as the shuttle replacement program for NASA, the Orion Program is designed to take the next generation of astronauts to space.

NASA is expecting the Orion to be sent into orbit toward the end of 2014 or early 2015.