Orbital ATK conducted a final ground test for NASA's Space Launch System boosters this morning at its Promontory, Utah facility. NASA is calling it a key milestone in the agency’s journey to Mars.
“5-4-3-2-1,” a voice counts down. “We have ignition of our NASA’s Space Launch System solid rocket motor, powering us on our journey to Mars.”
Engineers horizontally fired the motor at Orbital ATK Promontory test facility. At more than 150 feet long and 12 feet in diameter, it’s the largest of its kind. The booster is designed to provide more than 75 percent of the thrust needed to escape the gravitational pull of the Earth. Preliminary data indicate the motor performed well.
“Great day to be a rocket scientist,” says Janica Cheney, director of test and regional operations at Orbital ATK. This was the final test before the rocket is used in a launch on an unmanned test mission with NASA’s Orion spacecraft in 2018. Eventually, Cheney says the plan is for the Space Launch System to venture to Mars and other destinations in deep space.
“Ultimately we’re going to put astronauts on this vehicle and so it’s pretty darn important that everything works, and it works in all the different scenarios and all the different environments we can throw at it,” she says.
Orbital ATK employs almost 3000 Utahns throughout the state, more than 1,000 of them at the Promontory facility.