We choose to go to the moon. A phrase uttered by President John F. Kennedy more than 57 years ago that still stands true today. In the effort to get Americans back on the moon, and beyond, testing is ongoing for the Orion program and the many components that will play a role in future human space flight by NASA.
This October a milestone was reached in that effort, and teammates at the U.S. Army Redstone Test Center (RTC) played a part in that accomplishment.
The jettison motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne for the Launch Abort System (LAS) on NASA's Orion spacecraft was successfully tested by engineers at RTC October 16.
During the third and final hot fire test, the jettison motor was fired for under two seconds in ambient temperatures to produce more than 40,000 pounds of thrust. With the series of static tests completed, Orion's LAS jettison motor is qualified and ready for flight on the Artemis II mission with astronauts.
The LAS will safely lift the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent. The LAS consists of three solid rocket motors: the abort motor which pulls the crew module away from the launch vehicle; the attitude control motor which steers and orients the capsule; and the jettison motor which ignites to pull the LAS away from the crew capsule, enabling parachute deployment and a safe crew landing. The jettison motor is the only part of the LAS that operates during normal mission scenarios, detaching from Orion once it is no longer needed.
The jettison motor is built by Aerojet Rocketdyne under contract to Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion. The motor tested in October was the third of three qualification motors static fired at RTC. The first was October 29, 2018, the planning of which began just six months prior.
"The success of this test program would not have been possible without the collaboration between Aerojet Rocketdyne and the test team at RTC," said Jason Bell, RTC team lead for the project. "Collaboration started fast in that first six months of test planning before Qual-1. In that time the design, modeling, and fabrication of the large base plate needed to support the Aerojet Rocketdyne test stand was completed. A combined RTC and Aerojet Rocketdyne procedure was drafted to ensure both safety and quality of the testing. Last but not least was the setup and checkout of the RTC data acquisition system to record more than 100 channels of data from each test."
According to information provided by NASA the Artemis lunar exploration program includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon, landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and establishing a sustained presence by 2028. Orion will sustain astronauts in deep space, provide emergency abort capability, and support a safe re-entry from lunar return velocities. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap -- sending astronauts to Mars.