ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. – Testing is complete on an Alliant Techsystems, Inc.’s (ATK) CASTOR® 30XL developmental rocket motor in AEDC’s J-6 Large Rocket Motor Testing Facility.
“AEDC is the only place to test this motor, due to their unique capability of being able to simulate upper atmospheric conditions,” said Jeff Winter, ATK program manager for CASTOR® 30XL.
Regarding the test article, Randy Quinn, a project manager for the AEDC’s Space and Missiles Complex, said, “It’s a relatively new motor with a pretty sophisticated composite case design, strong enough to withstand the stresses it will experience during firing, but balancing an increase in performance with a lower weight and cost of production.”
The upper stage developmental rocket motor underwent a final qualification static fire test in J-6 to boost the power of Orbital’s Antares launch vehicle, ahead of a series of flight tests scheduled to take place at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The successive test flights will lead to cargo resupply flights of the Antares vehicle carrying a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation program.
The first CASTOR® 30XL motor is scheduled to fly on the fifth flight of Antares (ORB-3).
Quinn said the new motor being tested at AEDC, besides its application to help with the NASA resupply missions, will also support commercial and DOD missions.
Richard Kirkpatrick, AEDC’s project manager for the test, and Quinn emphasized that the CASTOR 30XL motor is designed to provide greater payload for cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station.
The test measured thrust, pressure and burn rate, all of which depended on the internal pattern of the propellant during the firing in J-6.
Winter spoke about the hurdles involved with the recent rocket motor test.
The challenges with this type of test are largely associated with the new motor development and, in this case, the size of the motor and the amount of exhaust products that will enter the system at AEDC,” he said. “The facility required significant upgrades, in order to handle the amount of exhaust products during the long static fire duration.”
Winter added, “AEDC has always performed exceptional when conducting ground tests. They have been able to adapt to working on a commercial program and been more than willing to fill our request, and control ATK’s corporate proprietary information. We appreciate the work they have done and applaud them on a job well done.”