NASA and Orbital ATK announced today that data gathered and reviewed to date from the second five-segment qualification motor (QM-2) test show the solid rocket motor manufactured by Orbital ATK performed as designed.
The test performed on June 28 provides vital data undergoing further analysis leading to qualification of the booster that will provide liftoff and ascent thrust for NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System, or SLS.

“Following more than a month of data analysis, we can certainly confirm the QM-2 ground test was a remarkable success,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division, and four-time space shuttle astronaut. “This successful test, along with numerous milestones being achieved across the program, shows SLS is on track to preserve and ensure our nation’s leadership in space exploration.”

NASA’s SLS will launch its first mission with an uncrewed Orion crew capsule, Exploration Mission-1, in 2018. The first crewed launch of the SLS vehicle and Orion spacecraft on Exploration Mission-2 will take humans farther into space than ever before–including possible crewed missions to an asteroid or the vicinity of the Moon, and eventually to Mars. SLS also opens new possibilities for science missions without crew, including robotic expeditions to places like Mars, Saturn and Jupiter.

The QM-2 static test had 82 qualification objectives and was supported by more than 530 instrumentation channels. A key objective of QM-2 was to test the solid rocket motor performance at its low temperature range (approximately 40 degrees F). Current data show the nozzle performed as expected, and ballistics performance parameters met requirements. Additionally, the thrust vector control and avionics systems provided accurate command and control of the motor nozzle position.

Orbital ATK’s new five-segment boosters for SLS leverage the flight-proven space shuttle’s four-segment design, while implementing technological and performance upgrades including: the addition of a fifth motor segment to provide increased power, an advanced avionics system, a more environmentally friendly motor insulation design, a modern flight termination system, and more efficient and improved processing techniques. These changes enable the new boosters to meet higher performance requirements while increasing reliability and lowering manufacturing costs.

This test, which was the final full-scale motor qualification test before flight in 2018, followed a robust three-test development phase (DM-1, DM-2 and DM-3) that helped substantiate motor design, and the first qualification test, QM-1, that tested the motor at its high temperature range (approximately 90 degrees F). The QM-2 ground test fully completed demonstration of the motor’s readiness for flight.

“Ground tests are very important – we strongly believe in testing before flight to ensure we learn all we can on the ground prior to committing to a flight mission in order to maximize its success,” said Precourt. “Now that we have tested our final qualification motor, it will be very exciting to watch the boosters fire in the vertical position for the EM-1 flight!”

The SLS and Orion programs are supported by a network of hundreds of suppliers representing 49 states. Orbital ATK has 29 key SLS booster suppliers across 16 states: Alabama, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin.

To view a video depicting the QM-2 static test and the early morning preparations on test day, visit Orbital ATK’s YouTube channel:

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and in several international locations. For more information, visit