NASA and partners test Orion launch abort motor

PROMONTORY, Utah. NASA and industry partners Orbital ATK and Lockheed Martin report that they have successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Orbital ATK’s facility in Utah. The launch abort motor is a crucial part of the LAS, which is a step forward in spaceflight safety for astronauts.

Orion’s LAS is designed to safely jettison the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. The recent test --  dubbed Qualification Motor-1 (QM-1) -- came after a series of component tests conducted over the past few years in preparation for qualification. According to the team, the QM-1 test confirms that the LAS motor can activate within milliseconds and will perform as designed under high temperatures.

The high-impulse motor was specifically developed so the majority of its propellant would be expended in the first three seconds, burning fuel three times faster than a typical motor of this size and delivering the thrust needed to pull the crew module safely away from its launch vehicle. During the test, the motor reached 400,000 pounds of thrust in one-eighth of a second, as the team had expected.

With this test completed, Orion gets one step closer to its first flight atop ’s Space Launch System (SLS), known as Exploration Mission-1, and to eventually enabling humans to explore beyond the moon, Mars, and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

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