July 7, 2015 – Orbital ATK, Inc. has signed a $98 million agreement with Lockheed Martin to provide the launch abort motor for the Orion human spaceflight capsule’s Launch Abort System (LAS). The Orion spacecraft will launch aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS), enabling humans to explore new deep space destinations.
The launch abort motor, manufactured at Orbital ATK facilities in Magna, Promontory and Clearfield, Utah, is a powerful solid rocket motor designed to ensure crew safety. Orion’s LAS is a unique safety feature, similar to an ejection seat found in a fighter jet. If an emergency were to occur at the launch pad, or during lift-off and ascent, the abort system would rapidly lift the capsule and crew away from the rocket.
“Orbital ATK is proud to be a key contributor to the Orion program and to astronaut safety,” said Fred Brasfield, Vice President of Orbital ATK’s NASA Propulsion Programs. “The benefit of using a solid launch abort motor is being able to transport the crew far from harm’s way in milliseconds, should the need arise.”
Under the recently signed agreement, the primary objective is to complete design, development, test and qualification of the abort motor. Major milestones in the process include structural tests, loads tests, igniter open air tests, and motor static firing tests. These tests will ultimately qualify the abort motor for operational flight missions. The agreement with Lockheed Martin provides funding for the launch abort motor through the second launch of Orion on SLS, Exploration Mission-2.
Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division, and four-time space shuttle astronaut, has nothing but praise for Orion’s LAS system.
“As a former astronaut, I firmly believe in the need for a robust launch abort system. Orbital ATK’s launch abort motor greatly increases the level of safety for future crews,” Precourt said.
The second flight test of the LAS, dubbed AA-2, is scheduled for GFY19. AA-2 will test the full capability of the launch abort system in a high altitude abort test.
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 just a few years. 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, avionics and controls testing at Marshall Space Flight Center, and Orbital ATK’s second qualification test of a five-segment solid rocket motor (QM-2) next year.