How Utah Is Contributing To Safer Space Travel

Jun 16, 2017

The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle will be the first spacecraft capable of taking a human crew to multiple deep space destinations. On Thursday at Promontory Point, Utah, the craft’s launch abort motor was put to the test.

Orbital ATK is the company that designed and manufactured the launch abort motor for NASA and executed the test. According to Charles Precourt, vice president and general manager of Propulsion Systems at Orbital ATK, the test that took place on Thursday at Promontory Point is an important step in proving that the launch abort system will work.

“This is a key milestone on the way to validating our capability to field those systems,” Precourt said.

According to Orbital ATK, the launch abort system will help to save astronauts in the event of a malfunction during launch. If something goes wrong, the launch abort system is activated within milliseconds — igniting the boosters in the abort module and pulling the crew capsule off and away from the rocket. Capable of producing about 400,000 pounds of thrust, the abort motor will carry astronauts far away, and fast, positioning them for a safe landing.

Once complete, the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle will be the first spacecraft of its kind, capable of bringing its crew to more than one destination in deep space. It will carry up to six occupants, twice as many as the Apollo capsule did. The launch abort system will sit atop the craft, a safety feature that will, under the best circumstances, never see use.

Utah facilities continue to play a role in creating components of the spacecraft’s launch abort system. Orbital ATK is producing the abort motor at its facility in Magna, and the composite case for the motor at its Clearfield facility.