MLAS
The Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) test vehicle features fixed fins and drag plates to inexpensively, yet effectively, simulate deployable fins or other aerodynamic devices that would be used on an operational launch vehicle. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith The Max Launch Abort System, or MLAS, vehicle features a bullet-shaped forward fairing that covers a simulated crew module, not shown. The vehicle weighs more than 46,000 lbs (20,865 kg) and is 33 feet, 5 inches (10.2 m) tall. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith Major components of the Max Launch Abort System (MLAS) test vehicle are positioned prior to assembly at NASA Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA In a series of fit checks, four inert abort motors were placed inside the motor cage assembly in the boost skirt, the lower-most part of the Max Launch Abort System test vehicle. Credit: NASA
A technician at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility works inside the boost skirt of the Max Launch Abort System vehicle. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith Technicians at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility 'jack up' the Max Launch Abort System vehicle to continue work just days before the test. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith Work continues to prepare the bullet-shaped forward fairing of the Max Launch Abort System vehicle for flight at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA A 'fish-eye' view of preparations at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility taken from above the Max Launch Abort System vehicle. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
A view from above the Max Launch Abort System vehicle just days before rolling out to the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith During Max Launch Abort System vehicle assembly, work continues on the crew module in the foreground while the lower sections of the test vehicle take shape in the background. Credit: NASA/Rebecca Powell NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight. Credit: NASA/Jim Mason Foley The Max Launch Abort System launch, July 8, 2009, at 6:26 a.m. EDT. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight. Credit: NASA/Jim Mason Foley 366233main_mlas-14_full NASA helicopter bird's-eye view of Max Launch Abort System flight. Credit: NASA/Jim Mason Foley The Max Launch Abort System test vehicle is composed of four major structural components. From top, they are the foreward fairing, the crew module simulator, the coast skirt and the boost skirt. Credit: NASA
The Max Launch Abort System flight demonstration will simulate an emergency on the launch pad. Credit: NASA A pre-launch view of the control room at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith A pre-launch view of the control room at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. Credit: NASA/Sean Smith
Rocket Hardware
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
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