General Plastics' Flame-Retardant Polyurethane Foam Plays Pivotal Role in Successful Ground Test of World's Largest Solid Rocket Motor for NASA Space Launch System
LAST-A-FOAM FR-4306 polyurethane foam tapped for nozzle closures in Orbital ATK's five-segment rocket boosters for NASA missions to explore deep space.
General Plastics customer Orbital ATK, in partnership with NASA, successfully completed the second of two booster qualification motor tests (QM-2) for NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) on June 28 in Promontory, Utah. Orbital ATK designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world.
The 322-foot SLS, in conjunction with NASA’s Orion spacecraft, provides a flexible deep space exploration platform to transport humans and cargo to multiple destinations across our solar system. The five-segment SLS motors were developed by Orbital ATK, who utilized LAST-A-FOAM® FR-4306 polyurethane foam material as nozzle closures for its two booster rockets. These nozzle plugs securely close the rocket opening before use or ignition. It serves as a seal that controls moisture levels while ensuring nothing can get into the motor when the rocket is in storage. A unique flame-retardant structural polyurethane foam, the FR-4306 material is ideal for this critical component.
NASA’s SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever flown, as it will produce 8.8 million pounds of total thrust. The motors leverage flight-proven solid rocket boosters used on NASA’s Space Shuttle coupled with new technologies and advanced materials. A pair of the boosters, each 177 feet long, will combine with four shuttle main engines powering the rocket's core stage to blast off from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The first SLS launch – a flight called Exploration Mission-1 that will send an unmanned Orion crew capsule around the moon – is targeted to take place in late 2018.
Assessing – and reassembling – the pieces
During analysis ATK Orbital will take apart the motor to see how it performed. An essential part of that dissection is reviewing how the nozzle closures broke apart, which was captured with cameras and mirrors. The individual pieces were collected after the test and will be evaluated for size and debris generated, to ensure that it does not damage the rocket. Orbital ATK and NASA will use test measurements to assess myriad factors and determine what modifications might be needed.
“It is very exciting to be on the forefront of deep space exploration by supplying our material and expertise to global leaders like Orbital ATK,” General Plastics Senior Account Manager, Dr. Brown stated. “We are proud to support the SLS program and contribute to these ambitious missions.”
The June 28 test was the second one aimed at qualifying the longer solid-propellant boosters for flight. It focused on testing the motor’s capabilities at lower temperatures under which the SLS may operate. Motor performance at the upper end of the expected propellant temperature range was previously validated last spring. During the next few weeks, engineers will analyze data collected from more than 500 sensors to determine if objectives were met for 82 different test objectives.