Moon Launch Bailout Engine

On August 28, Aerojet Rocketdyne successfully tested the jettison motor at the Redstone Test Center in Huntsville. The jettison motor is one of three motors on the Orion spacecraft’s launch abort system. Photo courtesy of NASA

The motor for the launch abort system of NASA’s Orion spacecraft will be put through its final test on October 16 at the Redstone Test Center in Huntsville.

NASA, with the help of contractors Lockheed Martin and Aerojet Rocketdyne, is certifying the jettison motor for human spaceflight on the Artemis II mission — Orion’s first flight with astronauts aboard and an important milestone in NASA’s Moon to Mars exploration approach.

The jettison motor is one of three motors on the launch abort system, but it is the only motor that activates on every mission, according to its manufacturer, Aerojet Rocketdyne. It performs the critical task of separating the launch abort system from the crew module after a successful launch, allowing the crew members to continue on their journey.

If there is an occurrence during launch or an ascent anomaly, Orion’s launch abort system will rapidly separate the crew capsule from the launch vehicle. Providing 40,000 pounds of thrust, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s jettison motor helps pull the launch abort system away from the crew module, enabling the parachutes to deploy and begin slowing Orion’s descent towards a safe landing.

During the final test, the jettison motor will fire for just under two seconds on the ground.

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“The Orion spacecraft has undergone extensive testing to ensure the flight vehicle is prepared to manage the punishing environments of deep space,” said Roger McNamara, Launch Abort System director at Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer of Orion. “Testing the launch abort system and the jettison motor’s performance is no exception, as safety of astronauts is paramount.”

NASA’s Artemis lunar exploration program includes sending a suite of new science instruments and technology demonstrations to the Moon, landing the first woman and the next man on the lunar surface by 2024 and establishing a sustained presence by 2028. The agency will leverage its Artemis experience and technologies to prepare for the next giant leap — sending astronauts to Mars.

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