Orion Launch Abort Motor Full-Scale Test Firing – Dry Run

**Before I begin this post, let me warn you ahead of time that anything typed in another color other than black should be taken very lightly.  The Co-host has been color happy lately.**

The NASA EDGE team is in Promontory, Utah at the ATK Test Facility covering the Orion Launch Abort Motor full-scale test firing.  If you’ve never been to the test facility here’s what you see as you drive up to the main entrance.   I actually suggested that they refer to this event as a test hiring rather than a test firing.  I got nothing.

ATK Test Facility, Promontory, Utah
ATK Test Facility, Promontory, Utah.  Credit: NASA EDGE/Chris Giersch

On November 20, NASA, ATK, and the Orion Project team will conduct the first full-scale test fire of the Launch Abort Motor for the Orion crew exploration vehicle.  A full-scale test like this has not been conducted since the days of the Apollo Program.  This test and earlier motor and component tests are paving the way for the Pad Abort-1 Flight Test scheduled for the spring of 2009. 

The Abort Motor stands over 17 feet tall, spans three feet in diameter and is equipped with a manifold that has four nozzles and turns the flow of the flames to create a pulling motion.

Abort Motor and test stand
Abort Motor attached to the vertical test stand.  Credit: NASA EDGE/Chris Giersch

It is the primary motor in the Orion Launch Abort System (LAS).  The LAS will be able to pull the crew module to safety away from the Ares I launch vehicle in the event of an emergency on the pad or during the initial phase of ascent up to 300,000 feet.  Speaking of scale, this thing is huge.  It always seems smaller in the animations we use on the show.

In the picture above, the Abort Motor is fitted into the vertical test stand, with the nozzles pointed skyward.  The burn time for the test is five seconds.  I believe the flames exiting the nozzles may reach a height of 100 feet.  So we’ll see what happens during burn time.  Should be fun.

Today we had a chance to view the dry test run from the control room.  The dry run took about 45 minutes and involved a series of checks before a they ignited a small charge.   Import Dry Run Note: Remember not to drink a 64 oz. cafe latte before the test.  The script doesn’t call for bathroom breaks.

Abort Motor test firing Control Room.
Control room for the Abort Motor test firing.  Credit: NASA EDGE/Chris Giersch

The team from ATK did a great job and I think everyone is ready for the test on Nov. 20.  Our coverage of the Abort Motor test is part of a NASA EDGE vodast we are doing on the Orion Launch Abort System.  Today we had a chance to conduct a few interviews for the vodcast. 

Chris and Blair interviews Heather Angel from Lockheed Martin.
Chris and Blair interviews Heather Angel from Lockheed Martin.  Credit: Linda Singleton
WHAT!?!?!?!  Ron is a set therapist for ATK too!

Heather Angel is a propulsion engineer for Lockheed Martin.  She’s been with the company for a little over six months and has done an outstanding during her short tenure.  We expect big things from her in the years to come.

Blair, Steve, Barry, and Chris
Blair, Steve Gaddis, Barry Meredith, and Chris.  Credit: NASA EDGE/Ron Beard
Did you notice the gradual increase in height from left to right?  For the record, we were on a slant.

We can’t produce a LAS vodcast without interviewing the head honcho for LAS, Barry Meredith.  Barry currently works at NASA Langley Research Center and has been with NASA for 40 years.  He works in the same directorate as me at Langley.  I can’t say enough about Barry.  He’s a straight shooter who knows how to get the job done.  Unfortunately Barry is leaving us in December and is retiring from NASA.  I am definitely looking forward to his retirement party.  And for his final act before retirement, Berry Meredith names Blair Allen as the nations top Medianaut with an emphasis in Magnetospherence!  If that doesn’t work, I can always emcee his retirement party.  I just bought a new karaoke machine.

Anyway enough rambling for one day.  Hey, the test firing is right around the corner and I think Ron is setting up the cameras.  We’ll be back to give you our take on the test firing and see if Blair’s hotdogs survived the burn.

All the best,

Successful Test!!

What a day at ATK!  NASA, Lockheed Martin, Orbital Sciences Corporation, and ATK successfully performed a ground firing test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion crew exploration vehicle Launch Abort System.   The abort motor fired for five seconds with the exhaust plume flames reaching an estimated 100-130 ft.  It was a sight to see.  Check out the first six frames of 15+ pics we took of the firing test using our Nikon D200 camera.

Congratulations to the entire Launch Abort System team on a job well done!  On to Pad Abort-1 at White Sands in 2009.  NASA EDGE would like to give special thanks to the following cool ATK employees: Trina Patterson, Julie Lucus-Keller, Justin Ellingford, Trevor Brasfield, and Jennie Campbell.  Special thanks to Julie and Justin for helping us out with gear, work space, and everything else.  They are a great group of people to work with.  Signing off from ATK.

All the best,
The NASA EDGE team at ATK
(Chris, Blair, Ron, and Don)

P.S.  We also wants to thank all of the NASA EDGE fans at ATK for making us feel so welcome.  It was great to meet everyone.  Hopefully, we will be back for more tests in the future.