ATK successfully delivered a launch abort motor to Kennedy Space Center, Fla., for Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1) of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, scheduled to fly next year.
The test flight abort motor is configured with inert propellant, since the EFT-1 mission will have no crew on board, but otherwise replicates the launch abort system that will ensure astronaut safety on future crewed Orion exploration missions using the new Space Launch System.
ATK’s abort motor is part of Orion’s Launch Abort System, which is designed to safely pull the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the initial ascent of NASA’s SLS. Although an abort event is not necessary for the un-crewed mission, having an inert abort motor in the LAS stack for EFT-1 helps NASA achieve its goals simulating the same weight, structure and aerodynamics of the live motor configuration.
“Our launch abort motor is critical to ensuring safety, allowing for a greater reduction in risks for crewed flights,” said Charlie Precourt, ATK vice president and general manager of the Space Launch Division. “ATK is proud to be a part of the Orion EFT-1 team. This is an important milestone for America’s new human exploration program, which includes Orion and the Space Launch System, with a heavy-lift capability to take crew and cargo on missions to the moon, asteroids and eventually Mars.”
Successfully ground-tested in 2008 and flight-tested during Orion’s Pad Abort test in 2010, the launch abort motor is more than 17 feet tall, measures three feet in diameter, and includes a revolutionary turn-flow rocket manifold technology. Two additional flight tests are scheduled for SLS, prior to the manned flight planned for 2020.
The launch abort motor was manufactured in 2008 as an inert pathfinder and has been modified at ATK’s Bacchus, Promontory, and Clearfield, Utah, facilities to meet the needs of EFT-1. It was also instrumented to collect environmental and flight data during the test launch.
ATK also makes the Attitude Control Motor for the abort system at its Elkton, Md., facility. The control motor provides steering for the launch abort vehicle during an abort sequence.
The primary objective of EFT-1 is to test the Orion crew module, which will have the LAS attached during ascent. Orion will travel more than 3,600 miles above Earth’s surfaceómore than 15 times farther away than the International Space Station’s orbital position. This is farther than any spacecraft designed to carry humans has gone in more than 40 years. Orion will return to Earth at a speed over 20,000 mph, faster than any current human spacecraft.
ATK is on contract to Lockheed Martin, who is the prime contractor for building the Orion spacecraft. The industry team includes major subcontractors, such as ATK, and a nationwide network of minor subcontractors, small businesses and suppliers across the United States.