Orion’s final jettison motor test qualifies for future moon missions

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REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. — Orion‘s final jettison motor test was successfully completed at Redstone Arsenal on Wednesday.

NASA, along with contractors Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne, were certifying the Launch Abort System’s jettison motor for human spaceflight on Artemis II, Orion’s first flight with astronauts. On NASA’s website, they say with the series of static tests completed, “Orion’s LAS jettison motor is qualified and ready for flight on the Artemis II mission with astronauts.”

The third and final test-fired for just under two seconds in ambient conditions, producing more than 40,000 pounds of thrust.

“This is the last time the motor is going to be fired here on Earth,” said Randy Bresnik, a NASA astronaut. The next time the motor will be fired is on Artemis I, and the time after that, Artemis II.

The first qualification test on October 29, 2018 confirmed the system performed as intended under hot temperature conditions. The second qualification test on August 1, 2019 confirmed the system performed as intended under cold conditions. The completion of the last test is known as a “milestone” and brings Orion one step closer to its first flight atop NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.

The jettison motor is one of three motors on the launch abort system. Don Mahr, Sr. Program Manager of Human Space and Electric Propulsion at Aerojet Rocketdyne, said the launch abort system is meant to take the astronauts away to safety in the event of a rocket problem. “Our job with this motor is to take the launch abort system away from the crew module,” said Mahr.

“We are talking a system that we can now check off and say it’s done a ready for flight,” said Bresnik.

Robert Decoursey, the Orion Launch Abort System project manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center, said it’s the final test for jettison motors. “We are done qualifying jettison motors for Orion,” said Decoursey.

Don Pettit, NASA astronaut says the completed test was impressive. “It’s nice to know that these things are going to work when you need them,” said Pettit.

Moving forward, Howard Hu, Orion Manager for Avionics, Power, and Software Office at Johnson Space Center, says the next step is getting “all the pieces together, which we have been putting together at the Kennedy Space Center, and getting ready for launch next year on Artemis One.”

According to NASA, the Artemis lunar exploration program includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to study the Moon, landing the first woman and next man on the lunar surface by 2024, and establishing a sustained presence by 2028.

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