Amy Johnson
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RELEASE : 09-100
Orion Launch Abort System Attitude Control Motor Test-Fired
HAMPTON, Va. -- NASA and its industry partners celebrated a test-firing of a critical safety component of the Orion crew exploration vehicle, the space agency's next generation of spacecraft designed to take astronauts to the moon, Mars and beyond.

The test, performed at the Alliant Techsystems (ATK) facility in Elkton, Md., on Dec. 15, was the sixth in a series of ground tests of the attitude control motor (ACM), which will provide steering for the Orion launch abort system (LAS).

The LAS, which is managed by NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., will be mounted on top of the Orion crew module and is designed to safely lift and steer the crew module away from the Ares launch vehicle in the event of an emergency. The LAS centers around three solid propellant rocket motors: an abort motor, an attitude control motor; and a jettison motor. Successful tests of both the abort and jettison motors were completed in 2008.

The attitude control motor consists of a solid propellant gas generator, with eight proportional valves equally spaced around the outside of the three-foot diameter (0.9 meter) motor. Together, the valves can exert up to 7,000 pounds (3,175 kg) of steering force to the vehicle in any direction upon command from the crew module.

"The completion of the Demonstration Motor 1 hot-fire test is a substantial advancement in the development of the ACM," said launch abort system manager Kevin Rivers, of NASA Langley. "With an elaborate eight-valve control system that relies on advanced ceramic composites for several key components, the ACM is among the most complex solid rocket systems ever built."

Having reached this milestone brings Constellation another step closer to flight ready status and demonstrates progress toward improved flight safety for astronauts, which is at the core of Constellation Program success.

"This test is a very significant accomplishment for the Orion CEV and for NASA," said Rivers. "There are many dedicated people from across the nation who have worked diligently to overcome technical challenges to make the test happen. I am proud of each of them."

The entire launch abort system will be demonstrated during a Pad Abort 1 flight test at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico in the spring of 2010.

The attitude control motor for the flight test is scheduled to be delivered to WSMR in January, followed by the stacking of the launch abort system.

NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., manages the launch abort system design and development effort with partners and team members from NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala. Langley's Launch Abort System office performs this function as part of the Orion Project office located at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. ATK is under contract with Lockheed Martin, NASA's prime contractor for Orion, to develop the attitude control motor.

Video of the test is available at:

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