Aerojet Rocketdyne, a subsidiary of Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc., successfully tested its third development jettison motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft at its facility in Rancho Cordova, California. Orion is being built to take humans farther into space than ever before, and the jettison motor is a critical element for ensuring astronaut safety. Leaders from NASA and Lockheed Martin, the agency’s prime contractor for the Orion spacecraft, visited Aerojet Rocketdyne to witness this key test.
“The first crewed flight of the Orion spacecraft is just around the corner,” said Roger McNamara, Lockheed Martin Launch Abort System director. “The Launch Abort System is such an important safety feature; it’s great to see progress happening across the country and right here in Sacramento.”
In the event of an emergency during launch or ascent, Orion is outfitted with a Launch Abort System (LAS) that can activate within milliseconds to propel the capsule away from danger and position the crew module for a safe ocean landing. The LAS consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor that pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the attitude control motor that is used to steer the crew module following an abort; and Aerojet Rocketdyne’s jettison motor, which separates the launch abort system from the crew module so that parachutes can be deployed for a safe splashdown.
Aerojet Rocketdyne’s jettison motor is the only LAS motor that will be activated on Orion’s next test flight, Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1), which is scheduled for 2018. During the three-week EM-1 mission, Orion will travel about 40,000 miles beyond the moon and return to Earth.
“Reliability of the jettison motor is critical to the safety and execution of the mission. Unlike other launch abort system motors, the jettison motor operates every time,” said Jim Paulsen, vice president of NASA programs at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Astronaut safety and reliability of our exploration systems is paramount at Aerojet Rocketdyne. EM-1 is the first integrated flight of Orion and the new heavy lift Space Launch System rocket, and Aerojet Rocketdyne propulsion systems will be supporting the mission from liftoff to splashdown.”
Today, the jettison motor fired for 1.5 seconds, which is all the time required to separate the launch abort system from the crew module so that parachutes can be deployed for a safe landing. Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin acquired key data during this test, including pressure, temperature, thrust, acceleration and strain measurements.
“In today’s test, the jettison motor generated more than 45,000 pounds of thrust, which is roughly enough thrust to lift two school buses off the ground,” said Cheryl Rehm, Orion program manager at Aerojet Rocketdyne. “Data from this test will be used to confirm our test objectives and ensure our readiness to begin manufacturing our qualification and production flight motors.”