Press Release

NASA, ATK Conduct First Launch Abort System Igniter Test for Orion

By SpaceRef Editor
June 16, 2008
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NASA, ATK Conduct First Launch Abort System Igniter Test for Orion

WASHINGTON — NASA and Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, reached another milestone Friday with the successful test firing of a critical safety component for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, NASA’s next generation of spaceships. A 36-inch-long igniter for the abort motor of Orion’s launch abort system was fired at ATK’s facility in Promontory, Utah.

Orion is part of the Constellation Program of spacecraft and systems NASA is building to carry astronauts to the International Space Station and conduct sustained human exploration of the moon. The abort motor, the primary motor in the launch abort system, is designed to pull the crew capsule away from the Ares I launch vehicle in an emergency situation while on the pad or during the first 300,000 feet of ascent after launch.

In less than a second, the igniter generated approximately 21,000 pounds of thrust and produced combustion gas temperatures of more than 5,800 degrees Fahrenheit. Engineers will use the test firing to evaluate the igniter’s ballistic properties and pressure created inside its chamber. Preliminary data indicate the igniter performed as expected.

The igniter is designed to fit inside the aft end of the abort motor for Orion’s launch abort system. In the event of an emergency, it will be used to ignite the solid propellant inside the abort motor casing. The motor uses a unique reverse flow technology with four nozzles mounted on the forward end. Once ignited, it will produce nearly a half-million pounds of thrust within milliseconds to pull the Orion crew module safely away from the Ares I rocket.

Friday’s test was the first in a series of three igniter open air tests scheduled for 2008. A full-scale abort motor ground test will be conducted in September. In December, the entire Orion launch abort system will be demonstrated during a flight test at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The abort system is a key element in NASA’s continuing efforts to improve safety as the agency develops the next generation of spacecraft to return humans to the moon. NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., manages the launch abort system design and development effort with partners and team members from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Langley’s Launch Abort System Office performs this function as part of the Orion Project Office located at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., is building the launch abort system for Lockheed Martin Corporation of Bethesda, Md., the prime contractor for Orion.

For images of the test and more information about NASA’s Constellation Program, visit:

NASA will post video of the test on the Constellation Program Web site when it is available.

SpaceRef staff editor.