NASA and Industry Team Successfully Test Orion Launch Abort Motor

Released on Thursday, November 20, 2008
Ares I
LAS - Launch Abort System
NASA - National Aeronautics & Space Administration
PROMONTORY, Utah, November 20th, 2008 -- NASA, Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT), Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle Launch Abort System at ATK's Launch Systems facility in Promontory, Utah. This major milestone brings the program one step closer to completion of the Orion spacecraft that will replace the shuttle and provides a tremendous improvement in spaceflight safety for the astronauts.

This inaugural test of Orion's full-scale abort motor marks the first time such a test has been conducted since the Apollo Program tested its launch escape system in the 1960s. This demonstration was the culmination of a series of motor and component tests conducted earlier this year in preparation for the Pad Abort-1 Flight Test, which will test the abort system's capabilities using a full-scale crew module mockup.

Orion's abort motor has the same mission as Apollo's -- to safely lift the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle, pulling the crew to safety in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial ascent phase.

The abort motor, which stands more than 17 feet tall and spans three feet in diameter, has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. It was fixed into a vertical test stand with its nozzles pointing skyward. Upon ignition, the abort motor fired for five seconds with the exhaust plume flames reaching up to 100 feet in height. The high-impulse motor was specifically developed so the majority of its propellant would be expended in the first three seconds, delivering the half million pounds of thrust needed to pull the crew module safely away from its launch vehicle.

Unlike Apollo, Orion's abort motor utilizes a composite case, and exhaust turn-flow technology rather than a tower, which results in weight savings, improved performance and improved success in crew survival during an abort. Instead of the rocket plume exiting straight out a nozzle at the aft end, the manifold is placed at the forward end of the motor. The rocket thrust enters the manifold and is turned 155 degrees exiting out the four nozzles, creating a forward-pulling force.

A series of earlier tests were performed leading up to this first full-scale demonstration. Those earlier tests included:

Five subscale test firings incorporating reverse flow technology. Full-scale hydroproof and superproof operation pressure tests were conducted on the composite case, igniter bottle and manifold. During casting, the propellant was tested to ensure the chemistry met abort motor requirements.

ATK is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract to Orbital Sciences Corporation, who is responsible for integrating the LAS motor for Lockheed Martin Corporation -- Orion's prime contractor. The Orion Launch Abort System (LAS) program is managed out of NASA's Langley Research Center.

The Orion crew exploration vehicle sits atop the Ares I crew launch vehicle. The Orion features an advanced capsule design with state-of-the-art technology that will transport humans to and from the International Space Station, the moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

The next major milestone is the Pad Abort-1 Flight Test, scheduled to take place at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico next spring. A series of LAS ground and flight tests are planned over the next several years that support the first operational flight of Orion and Ares I scheduled for 2015.

Source: NASA and Industry Team Successfully Test Orion Launch Abort Motor

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