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NASA Successfully Tests Launch Abort Motor

The 17' tall module will jettison the crew out of harm's way in the event of an emergency. It creates 400,000 pounds of thrust in one-eighth of a second.

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(Business Wire) Orbital ATK, NASA and Lockheed Martin announced the successful ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Orbital ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah.

The mission for Orion’s LAS is 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 test was the culmination of a series of component tests conducted over the past few years in preparation for qualification. The test confirmed the motor can activate within milliseconds and perform as designed under high temperatures.

The abort motor, which stands over 17 feet tall and spans three feet in diameter, has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. It was fixed into a vertical test stand with its nozzles pointing skyward. Upon ignition, the abort motor fired for five seconds with the exhaust plume flames reaching up to 100' in height.

The high-impulse motor was specifically developed so the majority of its propellant would be expended in the first three seconds, burning 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. The motor reached 400,000 pounds of thrust in one-eighth of a second.

This is enough thrust to lift 66 large SUVs off the ground.

This milestone brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System, Exploration Mission-1, and to eventually enabling humans to explore beyond the Moon, Mars and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit. More analysis will be performed in the coming weeks.

Orbital ATK is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract with Lockheed Martin.The company also manufactures the composite case for the abort motor at its facility in Clearfield, Utah.

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