Thursday, December 17, 2009

ATK Test-Fires Critical Crew Escape System Motor

A company in on the development of the crew escape system for NASA's next-generation Ares I rocket and Orion spacecraft scored a ground test success this week, firing a full-scale attitude control motor at its facility in Elkton, Md.

Click HERE to see the cool video.

Officials with Alliant Techsystems, which also is developing the first stage for the Ares I rocket, are ecstatic.

"We demonstrated a critical technology capability that will enhance crew safety and mission success," said Bart Olson, Vice President and General Manager of ATK Tactical Propulsion and Controls. "This successful milestone brings Constellation another step closer to flight ready status and demonstrates progress toward improved flight safety for astronauts that is at the core of Constellation Program success."

The Launch Abort System for the Orion spacecraft, which is being developed by Lockheed Martin, is designed to pull the Apollo-style crew capsule away from the Ares I rocket in the event of a launch explosion or other emergency. The system plays a critical role in NASA's goal of making its next crew transportation system 10 times safer than the space shuttle.

ATK officials said a preliminary look at data indicates that the Demonstration Motor 1 (DM-1) test was successful. Engineers now are analyzing the detailed results. This was the sixth in a series of ground tests of Orion's attitude control motor system, validating that the thruster system performs as designed, the company said.

ATK's attitude control motor provides steering for the Launch Abort System. Check out the details:

ATK's attitude control motor consists of a solid propellant gas generator, with eight proportional valves equally spaced around the circumference of the three-foot diameter motor, the company said in a news release. In combination, the valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module. The valves are controlled by a redundant power and control system.

ATK is under contract to Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, to develop the attitude control motor and provide motors for Orion's development test flights and human rated flights. ATK is also the prime contractor for Ares I first stage.

ATK is an aerospace and defense company with more than 18,000 employees in 22 states, Puerto Rico and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion.

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