ATK Modifying Abort Motor for 2014 Orion Flight Test

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ATK said Feb. 28 that it had begun modifications of an inert main abort motor for the first orbital test flight of NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle.

NASA’s plans for the mission dubbed Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) call for launching an unmanned Orion in 2014 from Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 rocket to test the capsule’s orbital and re-entry performance.

The launch abort system flying on the 2014 mission will be a nonworking prototype built with inert motors.

“In new development programs, we reduce risk by building an inert prototype to better understand the design and manufacturing processes,” Charlie Precourt, ATK general manager and vice president of space launch systems, said in a statement. “In the case of the abort motor, it will now be reconfigured to support the first orbital test flight of the Orion crew vehicle.”

Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver recently returned the inert abort motor to ATK’s Salt Lake City facility where it will undergo modifications for the 2014 flight. Built in 2008, the 5-meter-tall prototype will have its manifold replaced with a flight design, undergo structural tests and have attachment points added for Orion’s shroud. The ATK-built attitude control motor to be used on EFT-1 also was manufactured in 2008 but requires no modifications for the flight test, ATK said in a statement.

The Orion launch abort system was successfully tested in May 2010 in a pad abort demo at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. During the 95-second test, the abort system boosted a full-scale Orion prototype to an altitude of 1,800 meters, where the capsule deployed its parachutes before landing a couple of kilometers downrange.