NASA's MLAS Flies!
As part of the now-defunct Constellation program, NASA's MLAS test vehicle was launched from the Wallops Flight Facility (VA) on July 8, 2009 at 6:26 a.m. to test an alternative launch abort system that could be used on future Orion and other manned spacecraft. Dubbed the Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) it does away with the traditional single motor tractor-style "Escape Tower" configuration used by NASA for Mercury, Apollo, and Orion and instead uses four motors along the sides of the spacecraft in abort situations.
The "Max" in the name of the system is in honor of Maxime (Max) Faget who was primary designer for systems such as the Mercury capsule and is patent-holder for the Aerial Capsule Emergency Separation Device...otherwise known as the "Escape Tower."
Though the vehicle appears to be a two-stage rocket, it consists of only a single four-motor stage. Also, for this first flight, there were no escape motors on the simulated "capsule" with the flight being primarily a test of the configuration of the vehicle and the sequencing of separation and recovery events.
For rocket modelers, the MLAS makes for an interesting Scale or Sport Scale NAR competition subject. Quest Aerospace briefly produced and marketed a semi-scale model of the MLAS and the kit occasional pops up on eBay, Amazon and other onlkine locations.
Photo Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
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MLAS Launch Video
Click thumbnails below for downloadable full-size images