Abort Motor for NASA’s Orion Spacecraft Successfully Tested

The abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System completes its final qualification test at the Northrop Grumman Promontory, Utah, test area. (Credit: Northrop Grumman)

Northrop Grumman Corporation and Lockheed Martin successfully performed the final full-scale ground test of the abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) at Northrop Grumman’s Promontory test facility. The 17-foot-tall abort motor is one of three motors comprising the LAS that sits atop the Orion spacecraft aboard NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and is designed to increase astronaut safety on the pad and through initial ascent.

Approximately 250 measurement channels assessed the abort motor as the four exhaust nozzles pointing skyward produced nearly 400,000 pounds of thrust over its two-second firing time. Today’s test concludes the verification of a new insulation formulation and completes qualification testing for the Orion’s LAS.

“This impressive, high-impulse motor burns three times faster than a typical motor of this size, and if needed, the reverse-flow nozzles pull the crew capsule away from the launch vehicle and to safety,” said Wendy Williams, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman. “Together, the three solid rocket motors of the LAS equip the SLS with the highest human-rated thrust and acceleration safety system possible.”

The first active LAS system will be integrated into the Orion spacecraft for Artemis II, the first crewed flight of SLS. Northrop Grumman also produces the attitude control motor (ACM) to directionally control the LAS. The ACM orients the crew capsule for parachute deployment and is manufactured at Northrop Grumman’s Elkton, Maryland, facility.

The company further supports NASA’s Artemis program producing the twin solid rocket boosters for the SLS rocket and was recently awarded a contract to support Artemis missions with flight sets through 2031. Northrop Grumman is also providing the Habitation and Logistics Outpost module for NASA’s Lunar Gateway and internally developing a Lunar Terrain Vehicle that supports human and robotic exploration of the Moon and beyond.