Orbital was a key contributor to the many studies NASA undertook in its effort to develop new launch technologies for its next generation spacecraft to replace the Space Shuttle. Orbital was a strong advocate of separating crew and cargo on separate missions, a strategy that NASA adopted for its Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle (CEV).
Orion CEV Launch Abort System
Orbital was a member of the Lockheed Martin-led Orion CEV team. Applying its proven small rocket technology, Orbital designed, developed, and built the Launch Abort System (LAS) for the Orion vehicle, a key element in vastly improving the safety of the flight crew as compared to current human space systems. The LAS was designed to allow the astronaut crew to safely escape in the event of an emergency both during launch pad operations and during Orion’s ascent through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Orion Abort Test Booster
In addition, Orbital is supplying the Abort Test Booster (ATB) that will conduct a number of tests to verify the Orion Launch Abort System. The tests will employ government-supplied rocket motors to boost the Orion capsule to specified test altitudes, applying Orbital’s expertise in the use of retired ICBM assets for reliable and low-cost launch missions. Tests will include low- and high-altitude trials to simulate aborts at various points in the launch vehicle trajectory.