Orbital ATK conducted a successful structural qualification test January 26 on its abort motor case that is being manufactured for use on NASA’s Orion spacecraft. Orbital ATK’s launch abort motor is integral to Orion’s Launch Abort System, which is designed to ensure the safety of astronauts who will fly on NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS).
The successful test of the Motor Structural Test (MST-1) case represents a significant milestone on the path to qualifying the abort motor production design. Motor qualification tests demonstrate the abort motor design is capable of performing under the extreme temperatures, G-forces and speed of a crew rescue.
“We are proud to be a vital part of Orion’s Launch Abort System,” said Fred Brasfield, Vice President of NASA Programs for Orbital ATK. “This unique abort system safety feature is similar to an ejection seat found in a fighter jet. If an emergency were to arise at the pad, or during launch and ascent, the abort system would lift the capsule and crew safely away from the rocket.”
During the MST-1 qualification test, the case withstood axial tension and compression loads in excess of a half-million pounds, as well as simultaneous side loads. This test load application exceeds the loads that would be applied to the case during a launch abort scenario.
“A little over a year ago, our inert abort motor flew on the first flight test of Orion,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division, and four-time space shuttle astronaut. “Now, with this test and other abort motor milestones, we’re moving even closer to the first SLS flights that will lay the foundation for NASA’s journey to Mars.”
MST-1 is one in a series of full scale structural qualification tests. Next in the series is Case Test (CT-1), which will be performed by the second quarter of 2016. The CT-1 tests include a pre-test hydrostatic acceptance test, life cycle tests with axial loads and internal pressure, a pressurized qualification test with axial and side loads, and a post-test acceptance test.
Orbital ATK manufactured and tested the composite MST-1 case at its facility in Clearfield, Utah. After fabrication and acceptance testing, the company transfers its abort motor cases to its Magna, Utah, facility for propellant casting and assembly.
“With SLS and Orion, we are pushing the boundaries of what we’ve thought to be possible,” Precourt added. “As we move forward on our journey to Mars, we’ll discover new opportunities and possibilities – greater than we’ve ever known.”
The largest and most powerful rocket in the world, the SLS, will launch with the Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission-1, in 2018. Upcoming major milestones for SLS include Aerojet Rocketdyne’s RS-25 flight engine hot fire test series at NASA’s Stennis Space Center followed by Orbital ATK’s second five-segment rocket motor qualification static test scheduled for this summer. At the same time, Boeing is building core stage flight hardware for EM-1 at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, and Lockheed Martin is testing and assembling the EM-1 crew module at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.