Aerospace company ATK has successfully delivered a Launch Abort Motor to Kennedy Space Center, Fla. for NASA's new Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, scheduled to fly next year on an Exploration Flight Test (EFT-1).
ATK’s Launch Abort Motor would only be used to safely pull the Orion crew module away from the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during the initial ascent. The EFT-1 test flight abort motor is configured with inert propellant, since the mission will not have a crew on board, but otherwise replicates the launch abort system that will ensure astronaut safety on future crewed Orion exploration missions.
“Having an inert abort motor for EFT-1 helps NASA achieve its goals simulating the same weight, structure and aerodynamics of the live motor configuration,” ATK said in a company press release on Thursday.
The primary objective of EFT-1 is to test the Orion crew module. Orion will travel more than 3,600 miles above Earth's surface. The vehicle will then return to Earth at a speed over 20,000 miles per hour, faster than any current human spacecraft.
“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,” said Charlie Precourt, ATK vice president and general manager of the Space Launch Division.
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.
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.
ATK is on contract to Lockheed Martin, who is the prime contractor for building the Orion spacecraft.
Receive DC Space News Examiner email alerts, subscribe here.