HAMPTON, Va. — A full-scale mock-up of NASA’s Orion launch abort system began a week-long flatbed trailer ride across the country Tuesday, en route to White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Once at White Sands, the rocket-like structure will help NASA prepare for this year’s abort system test, called Pad Abort 1.

The nearly 45-foot-long launch abort system mock-up, known as the LAS pathfinder, was built at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. Engineers and technicians at Langley designed and fabricated the hardware, which represents the size, outer shape and specific mass characteristics of the Orion crew exploration vehicle’s abort system.

The LAS pathfinder will be used to help prepare for the Pad Abort 1 flight test at White Sands. Ground crews will practice lifting and stacking the system on the launch pad, which will help ready the crew for handling the actual flight test hardware that will be launched there later this year.

The 90-second flight for Pad Abort 1 will be an important first step toward demonstrating how NASA is building safety into its next generation of spacecraft and will help gather information about how NASA’s newly-developed launch abort system operates in reality. The system will provide a safe escape route for astronauts in the Orion crew capsule if there is a problem on the launch pad or during ascent into low Earth orbit atop the Ares I rocket.

During its journey, the LAS pathfinder will break from the drive to visit museums along the way. Museum visits include:

* Adventure Science Center in Nashville, Tenn., on Wednesday, March 4

* Science Museum Oklahoma in Oklahoma City on Friday and Saturday, March 6 and 7

* Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo, Texas, on Sunday, March 8

* New Mexico Museum of Space History in Alamogordo, N.M., on Monday, March 9

For more information about Orion, the LAS pathfinder and the museum stops, visit:


To view a high-resolution image of the LAS pathfinder, visit:


For more information on NASA’s Constellation Program, visit: