NASA abort rocket fit to go

A NASA project designed to take the next generation of explorers to the moon has completed full-scale tests of a rocket that will launch the craft’s abort system.

The Orion spacecraft will be launched by a newly designed vehicle called Ares 1 from 2010. Orion and Ares I are part of NASA’s Project Constellation, which plans to return astronauts to the moon by 2020, then on to Mars and other destinations in the solar system.

In the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, an escape capability called the launch abort system will separate the crew module from the vehicle using a solid rocket-powered abort motor.

The first test was critical to NASA’s preparations for a series of flight tests of the full abort system planned to begin this year. ‘This was a major success for the Orion launch abort system team,’ said Mark Cooper, NASA’s integrated product team lead for launch abort system propulsion at the Marshall Space Flight Centre in Alabama. ‘The test provided valuable data on motor performance that will allow design and analytical refine- ments by our contractor team. The test is the culmination of intense and focused work by the entire jettison motor team.’

The motor static test firing was conducted by Aerojet Corporation in California. NASA has partnered with Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences Corporation and Aerojet to supply the motor.

Testing: the project’s solid rocket-powered abort motor