NASA: Orion's escape system goes zero to 600 in 3.5 seconds, works during launch

Zero to 60? Try zero to 600. If you think a ride up into orbit would be intense, aborting one would be even more so. That's because NASA is making sure that its Orion crew module, which would blast off atop an Ares rocket, would be able to bail if things went south — mid-launch, no less. Said bailing happens when the Orion module breaks away and rockets upwards, reaching 600 mph in 3.5 seconds.

The space shuttles we know so well today don't have this option in the face of impending doom as they were designed to be able to get back to the runway (which, sadly, wasn't always enough), but this isn't actually the first mid-launch abort system designed for spacecraft. The original Apollo spacecraft had a similar system built for it, and the Russians (then the Ruskies) successfully aborted a 1983 Soyuz mission using a launch abort system.

The Launch Abort System (or LAS) that Orion can deploy features a powerful, solid rocket motor (pictured above), and a second one mounted toward the cone of the crew module's housing for attitude control. Parachutes would then bring the Orion module back down to terra firma safely.

Click Continue to see a video of the LAS in action.

Here's a render of what NASA hopes will happen:

Here's the main abort motor of the LAS firing:

Via Technology Review