Colloquium: July 10, 2012

Langley’s Contribution to Human Spaceflight: Orion Pad Abort-1 Flight Test

Kevin Rivers – Manager, Orion Launch Abort System Office
John Davidson – Orion Abort Flight Test Flight Dynamics Lead
Phillip L. Brown – LaRC Orion Flight Test Article (FTA) Project Manager
Robert Parker – LaRC Orion Flight Test Article (FTA) Chief Engineer

TUESDAY: July 10, 2012 2:00 P.M. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.
(video) within the Langley firewall only


Orion Launch Abort TestNASA continues to remain steadfast in its execution of a next generation design and development of a launch system and space exploration vehicle to carry humans into earth orbit and beyond. The Orion Project is NASA’s design and development effort for a crew module (CM), a service module (SM), and a crew module launch abort system (LAS). Langley engineers and technicians have been involved in the Orion Project’s Pad Abort -1 Flight Test. The Pad Abort-1 Flight Test, also known as PA-1, was the first test of the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) design and demonstrated that the LAS was capable of carrying a simulated crew module in a controlled manner away from a pad location on the ground. Langley played two significant roles in accomplishing this successful test: 1) leadership and insight into the design, integration, and testing of the LAS, and 2) design, fabrication, and delivery of the PA-1 crew module simulator and supporting launch site operations hardware and equipment pathfinders. Today’s colloquium will re-familiarize the audience with Orion, provide an overview of the Launch Abort System and the PA-1 Crew Module, discuss some of the unique attributes of both, and explore some of the challenges associated with the PA-1 Abort Flight Test efforts.


Mr. Rivers contributed to the successful Pad Abort-1 development flight test and Ares 1-X flight test, the Shuttle Return-to-Flight effort and led the Hot and Integrated Structures Element of the Next Generation Launch Technology Airframe Project. In his current role, Mr. Rivers manages the team stationed at both LaRC and MSFC in overseeing the development of the Orion Launch Abort System. He has been certified as a Level 4 Project Manager, holds numerous letters of patent and has authored and coauthored many technical articles.

Dr. Davidson is currently working on Project Orion as the Flight Dynamics Lead in the Launch Abort System Office. Dr. Davidson joined Langley Research Center in 1987. He has a BS, MS, and PhD in Aerospace Engineering from Purdue University. While at Langley, he has developed and flight-tested control laws for the F-18 High Angle Attack Research Vehicle, performed flight control design and analysis for the Hyper-X hypersonic engine test vehicle program, and conducted research into the design and analysis of atmospheric-entry control systems for next generation planetary exploration spacecraft.

Mr. Brown served as the Project Manager for the Langley Orion Flight Test Article Project leading a team responsible for the design, fabrication, and delivery of the Pad Abort -1 Crew Module boilerplate, Pad Abort-1 pathfinding hardware, and other ground support assets needed for PA-1 integration and transport. Mr. Brown has been a NASA employee since 1978, is a Langley apprentice school graduate, and has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering from Old Dominion University.

Mr. Parker was the Flight Test Articles Chief Engineer and the Abort Flight Test Primary Structures Lead for Orion Pad Abort 1. He was tasked with the technical leadership of project developing and manufacturing the Crew Module structure, supporting the integration of the vehicle, and supporting the certification of flight test readiness. Robert Parker is mechanical engineer and graduate of Old Dominion University.