From there, the now-exposed capsule fell to impact in the Atlantic Ocean.
"The Space and Missile Systems Center partnered with Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems to provide a refurbished Peacekeeper booster for this momentous test mission", said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of SMC's Small Launch and Targets Division at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico.
No crews were aboard the spacecraft during what NASA called "a highflying, fast-paced trial".
In this exercise, however, parachutes were not used because they are very expensive and have already been tested many times. An unpiloted test flight of the SLS booster and Orion capsule is planned for late next year or early 2021 followed by a piloted flight of an Orion capsule carrying astronauts around the moon in the 2022 timeframe.
"It looked like a complete mission success to me", said Blake Watters, a launch-abort-system propulsion engineer at Lockheed Martin Corp, Orion's manufacturer. "We have to prepare for this even though there's a low likelihood of it happening". (We feel 1 G continuously on Earth's surface, thanks to our planet's gravitational pull.) At the time, Orion was projected to be moving at about 800 miles per hour (1,300 km/h) and experiencing extreme temperatures and pressures, NASA officials said.
In March, Vice President Pence called for the agency to speed up its plans.
Originally, Nasa had been aiming to get astronauts to the moon by 2028.
For about four years now, Plum Brook represents a primary testing hub for activities related to Orion because of its one-of-a-kind experimental chambers. In doing so, he took aim at NASA's bureaucracy, saying it "must transform itself into a leaner, more accountable and more agile organization". "We want to demonstrate that the LAS works in this environment", said Mark Kirasich, an Orion program manager.
Instead of sending astronauts directly to the lunar surface, as was done during the Apollo era, NASA plans instead to first build an outpost in orbit around the moon, known as the Gateway.
NASA has successfully tested the launch abort system for the Orion crew capsule created to take astronauts to the Moon. This allowed the craft to reach 31,000 feet in 55 seconds.
The test was created to verify the abort system would work as required in a worst-case scenario, when an SLS booster will be subjected to the most extreme aerodynamic forces during an actual climb to space.
About 27 seconds after the abort was triggered, a third motor fired to pull the escape system and shroud away from the Orion capsule at a maximum altitude of about 44,000 feet. The capsule, equipped with parachutes, could then float safely to the ground.
"We are incredibly excited", said Jenny Devolites, Ascent Abort-2 crew module manager and test conductor. While the capsule would sink to the ocean floor, NASA would still be able to collect data from the flight.