ATK to Prepare Orion Abort Motor for 2014 Test Flight of NASA's Orion Capsule

ATK (NYSE: ATK) today began conversion of the main abort motor for NASA's first Exploration Flight Test of the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle slated for 2014 from Kennedy Space Center.

The inert system was recently returned to ATK's facility in Salt Lake City, Utah from Lockheed Martin's (NYSE: LMT) Waterton facility in Denver where the system successfully completed a series of rigorous acoustic and modal tests. The abort motor is part of Orion's Launch Abort System, which is designed to safely lift the Orion crew module away from the launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial ascent phase of NASA's Space Launch System.

Standing more than 17 feet tall and measuring three feet in diameter, the abort motor was manufactured in 2008. The motor is an early prototype that was used to better understand the design and to aid in the build-up and acoustic testing of the Orion capsule.

"In new developmental programs, we reduce risk by building an inert prototype to better understand the design and manufacturing processes," said Charlie Precourt, ATK General Manager and Vice President of Space Launch Systems. "In the case of the abort motor, it will now be reconfigured to support the first orbital test flight of the Orion crew vehicle."

A few modifications will be incorporated into the abort motor, including replacing the manifold with a flight design, performing structural tests, adding case brackets for raceway and attachment points for Orion's shroud, and adding flight instrumentation to collect environmental and flight data during the test launch.

"This test flight is an extremely important milestone as we move forward with America's new human exploration spacecraft and heavy-lift launch system, enabling our human space flight program to conduct missions beyond Earth's orbit," said Precourt.

The Orion, with its abort system, will fly aboard NASA's Space Launch System, the rocket currently being developed to expand America's capability in space exploration. The launch system will be powerful enough to take crew and cargo into an orbit that enables missions to the Moon, asteroids and eventually to Mars. In addition to the main abort motor, ATK also makes the Attitude Control Motor for the abort system at its Elkton, Md. facility.  The control motor provides steering for the launch abort vehicle during an abort sequence.  The control motor to be used on EFT-1 is an inert motor also delivered in 2008, but requires no modifications for the flight test.

The launch abort system sits at atop the Orion spacecraft and was successfully tested during Orion's Pad Abort-1 flight test in 2010. The abort motor operational design utilizes a composite case and titanium manifold exhaust turn-flow technology, resulting in weight savings and improved performance. The control motor design includes eight proportional-valve thrusters with a redundant control system, which provide unparalleled control and safety.

Source: Alliant Tech Systems, Inc (ATK) (NYSE: ATK)
Date: Feb 29, 2012