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Utah-based ATK prepares for test of 'world's largest' rocket motor

Utah-based ATK prepares for test of 'world's largest' rocket motor

(Courtesy of ATK)


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PROMONTORY, Box Elder County — A solid rocket motor designed by a local company is being touted as the largest ever built for flight.

The first Space Launch System booster qualifications motor, called QM-1, was designed by Utah-based ATK for NASA. It was recently installed in a specialized stand as part of preparations for a ground test scheduled for March 11 in Promontory.

“Testing before flight is critical to ensure reliability and safety when launching crew into space,” ATK space launch division vice president Charlie Precourt said in a statement. “The QM-1 static test is an important step in further qualifying this new five-segment solid rocket motor for the subsequent planned missions to send astronauts to deep space.”

After testing, two of the rocket motors and four RS-25 engines will eventually be used to propel NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which is intended to travel to destinations such as Mars and an asteroid, according to NASA. The Orion spacecraft travelled 3,604 miles beyond Earth during a successful test in December.

QM-1 is 154 long and 12 feet in diameter, according to ATK. It reported the motors produce 3.6 million pounds of maximum thrust when fired. The test in March will be a two minute, full-duration static test. It should collect information on motor performance, acoustics, vibrations and control performance, among other things.

"With RS-25 engine testing underway, and this qualification booster firing coming up, we are taking big steps toward building this rocket and fulfilling NASA's mission of Mars and beyond," SLS program manager Todd May said in a statement. "This is the most advanced propulsion system ever built and will power this rocket to places we've never reached in the history of human spaceflight."

Three graphite epoxy motors from ATK were also recently used in the launch of the United Launch Alliance Delta 2 rocket, which carried NASA’s soil moisture active passive science satellite. It lifted off from California on Jan. 31.

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Natalie Crofts

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