Aerojet Rocketdyne recently passed a key milestone in preparation for the Ascent Abort Test (AA-2) next year with the successful casting of the Jettison Motor for the Lockheed Martin-built Orion spacecraft’s Launch Abort System (LAS).
AA-2 is a full-stress test of NASA’s Orion LAS, which includes the Jettison Motor built by Aerojet Rocketdyne. The Orion Jettison Motor is used to separate the LAS from Orion as it makes its way to space and is the only motor on the escape system to activate in all mission scenarios.
In the unlikely event of an emergency on the launch pad or during ascent, the LAS would activate within milliseconds to whisk Orion and its astronaut crew to safety. Once Orion reaches a safe distance from the rocket, the Orion Jettison Motor would ignite to separate the LAS structure from the spacecraft, which could then deploy its parachutes for a safe landing.
During the AA-2 test, a solid rocket booster will launch a fully functional LAS and an Orion test vehicle to an altitude of 31,000 feet at Mach 1.3 (over 1,000 mph) to test out the functionality of the LAS system prior to flying humans. The Jettison Motor will fire last in the test sequence.
The Orion Jettison Motor, which generates 40,000 pounds of thrust, uses a propellant that is poured into a motor casing, where it cures over a period of several days to form a solid, stable cast that burns in a precisely controlled fashion. The AA-2 Jettison Motor casting took place at Aerojet Rocketdyne’s motor production facility in Sacramento, California. The completed motor will now be shipped to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center for integration with the LAS by Lockheed Martin.
Aerojet Rocketdyne CEO and President Eileen Drake said that every time the company's engineers work on products supporting the Orion spacecraft or the Space Launch System rocket, astronaut safetyis front and center of their minds. The AA-2 test is a critical step to testing the Launch Abort System and the company's Jettison Motor ensures the astronauts always return home safely to their families. The casting of the Orion Jettison Motor marks a critical step as the firm prepares for the first integrated flight of SLS and Orion to test the systems that will be used to take astronauts to the vicinity of the Moon and to other exciting destinations.