SACRAMENTO, Calif., May 6, 2010 – Aerojet, a GenCorp (NYSE: GY) company, along with NASA and the Lockheed Martin-led Orion industry team, successfully launched the first integrated Orion launch abort system flight test today. Conducted at the U.S. Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, the test drew more than 1,100 attendees including space industry leaders, NASA center dignitaries and Congressional representatives.
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor to NASA for the Orion crew exploration vehicle, led the industry team development effort for the launch abort system, an innovative technology critical for crew escape in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during flight. In addition to the launch abort system, the Orion spacecraft is comprised of a crew module for crew and cargo transport; a service module for propulsion, electrical power and fluids storage; and a spacecraft adapter for securing it to the launch vehicle. Risk reduction testing, such as the Pad Abort-1 flight test, has been an ongoing effort throughout Orion’s development phase to maximize mission success and crew safety.
The Orion launch abort system (LAS) consists of three new solid rocket motors: the abort motor that fires nearly 500,000 lbs of thrust to pull the crew module up and away from the launch vehicle; the attitude control motor that exerts up to 7,000 lbs of steering force to reorient the vehicle’s position; and Aerojet’s jettison motor that separates the launch abort system from the crew module so that parachutes can be deployed for a safe landing. All three motors make unique and substantial advances in the state of the art in solid rocket technology. The jettison motor is the only motor that will be activated on all nominal missions to separate the spacecraft from the launch abort system assembly shortly after second stage activation. The three motors were integrated into the LAS assembly by a Lockheed Martin-led team at White Sands Missile Range in preparation for the Pad Abort-1 test today.
NASA selected Lockheed Martin in 2006 to develop the Orion crew exploration vehicle as the flagship for the nation’s next generation spacecraft to send humans beyond low-Earth orbit to explore destinations throughout our solar system. The Orion spacecraft is currently on schedule for possible orbital demonstration flight as early as 2013. Aerojet is part of the nationwide Orion industry team led by Lockheed Martin, which also includes five major subcontractors and an expansive network of minor subcontractors and small businesses working at 88 facilities in 28 states across the country.
Composed of solid rocket motors, separation mechanisms, and an adapter structure, the LAS will provide escape capability for the Orion crew from pad operations through ascent. The new design is a key element in vastly improving the safety of the flight crew as compared to current human space flight systems. For more information about the Pad Abort-1 flight test, visit the NASA Web site at http://www.nasa.gov/orion.
Aerojet is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader principally serving the missile and space propulsion, defense and armaments markets. GenCorp is a leading technology-based manufacturer of aerospace and defense products and systems with a real estate segment that includes activities related to the entitlement, sale, and leasing of the company’s excess real estate assets. Additional information about Aerojet and GenCorp can be obtained by visiting the companies’ Web sites at http://www.Aerojet.com and http://www.GenCorp.com.