Orion Launch Abort Motor On Track For 2018 Launch

NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of the launch abort motor igniter for the Orion crew capsule’s Launch Abort System (LAS) in September 2014. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

NASA and ATK successfully completed a static test of the launch abort motor igniter for the Orion crew capsule’s Launch Abort System (LAS) in September 2014. Image Credit: Orbital ATK

August 11, 2015 – Orbital ATK, Inc. successfully completed its Critical Design Review (CDR) with Lockheed Martin and NASA for the Orion launch abort motor August 6. The abort motor is a major part of the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS), which will help ensure the safety of astronauts who launch on missions to explore deep space aboard NASA’s new, heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS).

Powered by solid rocket fuel, the launch abort motor is designed to propel the crew capsule away from the rocket in the event of an emergency at the launch pad, or during liftoff and ascent. The abort motor can ignite within milliseconds and accelerate to approximately three times the average acceleration of a drag race car to carry the crew module a safe distance from the primary rocket and debris field.

“As a critical element of a life-saving system, the launch abort motor must be reliable, and it must ignite quickly. Solid rocket fuel is well-proven to have these characteristics,” said Kent Rominger, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Orbital ATK, and five-time space shuttle astronaut. “Orbital ATK’s launch abort motor greatly increases safety for future crews.”

Successful completion of CDR demonstrates the launch abort motor design meets mission performance requirements and is mature enough for full-scale fabrication, assembly, integration and testing. This work will be performed at Orbital ATK’s facilities in Magna and Promontory, Utah. Additionally, the 36-inch diameter by 175-inch long composite case that spans the length of the abort motor will be produced at Orbital ATK’s facility in Clearfield, Utah.

Under a separate contract with Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK also provides the LAS attitude control motor. This motor is manufactured at the company’s Elkton, Maryland, facility.

Orion and SLS will launch on their first joint mission, Exploration Mission-1, in 2018. The next major milestones for SLS include Boeing’s Vertical Assembly Center core stage welding, continued testing of Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 engine at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, avionics and controls testing at Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and Orbital ATK’s second qualification test of a five-segment solid rocket motor (QM-2) next year.

Colorado-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems leads the Orion industry team as the prime contractor building the Orion spacecraft.