ATK (NYSE: ATK ) technologies played a significant role in today's historic launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta IV heavy rocket carrying NASA's Orion crew capsule on its first mission. ATK's inert launch abort motor and attitude control motor were part of the Launch Abort System for the Orion capsule, which is designed to fly atop NASA's Space Launch System (SLS). The mission marks a major milestone toward America's exploration of deep space.
"Watching the launch of Orion's first flight test was incredibly inspiring," said Charlie Precourt , vice president and general manager of ATK's Space Launch division, and four-time space shuttle astronaut. "With this mission, NASA and its partners have embarked on a new chapter of space exploration—one that will take humankind farther than we have ever ventured to go. While humans have been exploring Mars from afar for years, SLS and Orion will take people there."
Today's flight test, called Exploration Flight Test-1, was a critical milestone in the development of Orion and SLS. During the test, an uncrewed Orion spacecraft took a four-and-a-half hour trip into space, traveling 15 times farther from Earth than the International Space Station. During its reentry into Earth's atmosphere, Orion traveled at 20,000 mph, faster than any current spacecraft capable of carrying humans, and endured temperatures of approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
Initial data show the flight test met all requirements. Further analysis of data gathered during the flight will inform design decisions to ensure crewed deep space missions for SLS and Orion are successful.
The inert launch abort motor (manufactured in Promontory and Bacchus, Utah ) and attitude control motor (manufactured in Elkton, Maryland ) are solid rocket motors designed to ensure crew safety. The abort system is a unique safety feature, similar to an ejection seat found in a fighter jet. If an emergency were to arise at the pad, or during launch and ascent, the abort system would lift the capsule and crew away from the rocket. Although the abort motor system was inert during the flight test, the motors were equipped with sensors to measure pressures, dynamics and acoustics of the system during launch.
Orion was also equipped with state-of-the-art, ATK-produced composite Ogive panels ( Iuka, Mississippi .) The Ogive panels are the exterior skin of the crew module that provides protection from the extreme temperatures of space. The Orion ablative heat shield includes 35 composite components produced in Promontory, Utah : six supporting the primary heat shield, with the remainder on the back-shell. The Orion spacecraft's hydrazine diaphragm tank and an ammonia diaphragm tank were also produced by ATK ( Commerce, California ). In addition to supporting the Orion spacecraft, ATK products played an important role on ULA's Delta IV rocket. These include the rocket's eight booster separation motors (Rocket City, West Virginia ), the diaphragm propellant tanks ( Commerce, California ), three nozzles for Aerojet-Rocketdyne's RS-68 engines ( Promontory, Utah ) and 12 key composite structures including thermal shields, centerbody structures, nosecones, two medium and one heavy skirt on the three Common Booster Cores, the composite center interstage ( Iuka, Mississippi ) and the composite X-panels interstage ( Clearfield, Utah ).
"SLS and Orion are pushing the boundaries of what is possible today," said Precourt. "As we progress toward our goal of sending humans to Mars, we will undoubtedly create spinoff technologies and innovative products that improve everyday life on Earth—a tremendous benefit of the nation's space program."
The largest and most powerful rocket ever to be built, the SLS will launch on its first mission, Exploration Mission-1, in just a few years. The next major milestone for SLS is Aerojet Rocketdyne's RS-25 engine hot fire test series at NASA's Stennis Space Center followed by ATK's five-segment rocket motor static test scheduled for March 2015 .
Source: Alliant Tech Systems, Inc (ATK) (NYSE: ATK)
Date: Dec 5, 2014