The launching ceremony of the Multipurpose Offshore Patrol Ship (PPA) «Paolo Thaon di Revel» (P430) took place on June 15, 2019, at Fincantieri’s shipyard in Muggiano (La Spezia), in the presence of the Italian Minister of Defence Elisabetta Trenta.
Godmother of the ceremony was Mrs. Irene Imperiali, nephew of the Admiral Paolo Thaon di Revel.
The ceremony was attended among others by the Chief of Staff of the Italian Navy, Admiral Valter Girardelli, by Fincantieri’s Chairman Giampiero Massolo and CEO Giuseppe Bono.
The PPA, first of seven units, will be delivered in 2021 and it is part of the renewal plan of the operational lines of the Italian Navy vessels, approved by the Government and Parliament and started in May 2015 («Naval Act»).
The multipurpose offshore patrol vessel is a highly flexible ship with the capacity to serve multiple functions, ranging from patrol with sea rescue capacity to Civil Protection operations and, in its most highly equipped version, first line fighting vessel. There will be indeed different configurations of combat system: starting from a «soft» version for the patrol task, integrated for self-defence ability, to a «full» one, equipped for a complete defence ability. The vessel is also capable of operating high-speed vessels such as RHIB (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat) up to 11 meters long through lateral cranes or a hauling ramp located at the far stern.
5 meters/434.7 feet long
Speed more than 31 knots/35.7 mph/57.4 km/h according to vessel configuration and operational conditions
171 persons of the crew
Equipped with a combined diesel, a gas turbine plant (CODAG) and an electric propulsion system
Capacity to supply drinking water to land
Capacity to provide electricity to land with 2,000 kw/2,682 hp of power
2 modular zones at the stern and at the center of the ship that allow the embarking of various types of containerized operating/logistic/residential/healthcare modules (in particular, the stern area may receive and handle within a covered area up to 5 modules in ISO 20” containers, while the central zone may receive and handle up to 8 ISO 20” containers)
The PPAs will be built at the Integrated Shipyard of Riva Trigoso and Muggiano, with delivery expected, for the first vessel of the class, in 2021, while the following deliveries will take place in 2022, 2023, 2024 (two units), 2025 and 2026.
The French Defence Procurement Agency DGA has signed an order to purchase an additional H225M which will be operated by the French Air Force. The aircraft will be delivered in a configuration that allows it to be interoperable with the existing fleet of 10 H225Ms in the French Air Force and in particular it will be capable of inflight refuelling, an essential operational advantage that this helicopter offers.
The aircraft will be based in Cazaux and will be used for Special Forces and Search and Rescue missions.
«We are very proud that the French Air Force is renewing its trust in the reliable multirole H225M, having been the first to deploy the type in an operational theatre in 2006», said Alexandra Cros, Vice President and Head of Governmental Affairs France at Airbus Helicopters. «The H225M is a real military asset thanks to its versatility and its excellent range. Operational from ships and land with an all-weather capability and takeoff in less than five minutes, it’s always ready for assignment», she added.
The H225M, with more than 180 aircraft ordered, 97 helicopters delivered, and 110,000 flight hours accumulated to date, is a recognized combat-proven, versatile and reliable workhorse for military missions worldwide. The 11-tonne member of the Super Puma family is relied upon as a force multiplier by France, Brazil, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. Indonesia has recently placed a follow-on order for an additional eight aircraft. Other recent customers for the H225M include Kuwait, Singapore, and Hungary who signed a contract for 16 H225Ms in December last year.
2 pilots + 1 chief of stick + 28 seats
2 pilots + 8 to 12 passengers
2 pilots + up to 11 stretchers + 4 seats
4,750 kg/10,472 lbs.
16.79 m/55.08 feet
3.96 m/13 feet
4.60 m/15.09 feet
Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW)
11,000 kg/24,251 lbs.
MTOW in external load configuration
11,200 kg/24,690 lbs.
5,715 kg/12,600 lbs.
5,285 kg/11,651 lbs.
Maximum cargo-sling load
4,750 kg/10,472 lbs.
Standard fuel capacity
2,247 kg/4,954 lbs.
ENGINES 2 TURBOMECA MAKILA 2A1
Take-off power per engine
1,567 kW/2,101 shp
PERFORMANCE AT MAXIMUM GROSS WEIGHT, ISA*, SL**
Maximum speed (Vne***)
324 km/h/175 knots
Fast cruise speed (at MCP****)
262 km/h/142 knots
Rate of climb
5.4 m/s/1,064 feet/min
Service ceiling (Vz = 0.508 m/s = 100 feet/min)
3,968 m/13,019 feet
Hover ceiling OGE***** at ISA*, MTOW, take-off power
792 m/2,600 feet
Maximum range without reserve at Economical Cruise Speed
Leonardo and Diamond Aircraft Industries are teaming up to offer a version of Diamond’s popular twin-engine DA62 aircraft customised for maritime surveillance missions. The new variant, designated DA62-MSA (Maritime Surveillance Aircraft) will be on show for the first time at Paris Air Show later this month. It will be outfitted with a full Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) suite based on Leonardo’s ATOS (Airborne Tactical Observation and Surveillance) mission system.
The collaboration is a response to the need for cost-effective, short/medium-range land and maritime surveillance platforms in regions such as South America, Africa and Asia Pacific. The DA62-MSA meets this requirement by bringing together an affordable and pilot-friendly aircraft with a full set of state-of-the-art sensors which, through the ATOS mission system, deliver a single, intuitive operational picture to the crew.
The DA62-MSA’s baseline sensor fit will include a Leonardo Gabbiano Ultra-Light TS Radar, which comes with an extensive suite of modes including optimised maritime patrol capabilities (such as high sea state detection), high resolution ground mapping via Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) modes, Ground Moving Target Indication (GMTI) and weather avoidance modes. The aircraft will also come with a High Definition Electro-Optic and InfraRed (EO/IR) turret which, like the radar, will be fully integrated into the operator’s touch-screen ATOS display in order to follow and manage the surveillance missions. Sensor options will also be offered for users who require additional capability, including Leonardo’s SAGE Electronic Support Measures (ESM) system and Spider COMmunications INTelligence (COMINT) system. SAGE provides tactical threat awareness and strategic intelligence gathering in the Radio-Frequency (RF) environment, while Spider can detect, intercept, identify and geo-locate communications of interest.
More than 110 Twin Engine Special Mission aircraft have been sold by Diamond and more than 60 ATOS systems are installed by Leonardo on 10 different platforms, including for Italy’s Air Force, Guardia di Finanza (customs police) and Coast Guard and Australian Customs. With the DA62-MSA, Leonardo and Diamond are able to offer an extremely cost-effective and user-friendly light ISR solution for maritime security needs, with a Maximum Take Off Weight (MTOW) of 2,300 kg/5,070.6 lbs., endurance of up to 8 hours and up to four crew able to operate with land and maritime radar.
Liqun Zhang, CEO of Diamond Aircraft said, «Diamond Aircraft is very proud to step into such an important strategic partnership with Leonardo to provide a cost-efficient high-performance maritime surveillance solution to the market. We all recognized the importance of such a capability and the high demand of many countries to protect their borders against illegal fishing and other criminal operations, This new airborne solution, based on our DA62 Special Mission Aircraft, will be available to the market by the end of the year, ready to deliver and provide security and surveillance tasks. During Paris Air Show 2019, Stand A6, the very first time Diamond will static display this configuration to the audience».
Fabrizio Boggiani, Senior Vice President Airborne Sensors & Mission Systems, Leonardo Electronics said, «Partnership is central to Leonardo’s way of doing business and as such we are delighted to be working with Diamond Aircraft on this venture. Our aim is always to provide the optimum solution to our customers and we believe that this combination of Diamond’s platform with a full suite of Leonardo sensors and our mission system provides an extremely compelling offer for this market segment».
The U.S. Air Force successfully conducted the first flight test of its AGM-183A Air Launched Rapid Response Weapon, or ARRW, on a B-52H Stratofortress aircraft on June 12 at Edwards Air Force Base, California.
A sensor-only version of the ARRW prototype was carried externally by a B-52H Stratofortress during the test to gather environmental and aircraft handling data.
The test gathered data on drag and vibration impacts on the weapon itself and on the external carriage equipment of the aircraft. The prototype did not have explosives and it was not released from the B-52H Stratofortress during the flight test. This type of data collection is required for all Air Force weapon systems undergoing development.
«We’re using the rapid prototyping authorities provided by Congress to quickly bring hypersonic weapon capabilities to the warfighter», said Doctor Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. «We set out an aggressive schedule with ARRW. Getting to this flight test on time highlights the amazing work of our acquisition workforce and our partnership with Lockheed Martin and other industry partners».
The Air Force is leading the way in air-launched hypersonic weapon prototyping efforts. As one of two rapid prototyping hypersonic efforts, ARRW is set to reach early operational capability by fiscal year 2022.
«This type of speed in our acquisition system is essential – it allows us to field capabilities rapidly to compete against the threats we face», Roper said.
The flight test serves as the first of many flight tests that will expand the test parameters and capabilities of the ARRW prototype.
The ARRW rapid prototyping effort awarded a contract in August 2018 to Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control, Orlando, Florida, for critical design review, test and production readiness support to facilitate fielded prototypes.
The U.S. Navy christened its newest Freedom-variant Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21), during a 10 a.m. CDT ceremony Saturday, June 15, in Marinette, Wisconsin.
U.S. Representative Betty McCollum of Minnesota delivered the christening ceremony’s principal address. Deputy Under Secretary of the U.S. Navy Jodi Greene served as the ship’s sponsor. In a time-honored Navy tradition, Ms. Greene christened the ship by breaking a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow.
«The christening of the future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul marks an important step toward this great ship’s entry into the fleet», said Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer. «The dedication and skilled work of our industry partners have ensured this ship will represent the great city of Minneapolis-Saint Paul and serve our Navy and Marine Corps team for decades to come».
The future USS Minneapolis-Saint Paul (LCS-21) is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric «anti-access» threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft. The ship will be homeported in Mayport, Florida.
The LCS class consists of two variants, the Freedom variant and the Independence variant, designed and built by two industry teams. The Freedom variant team is led by Lockheed Martin in Marinette, Wisconsin (for the odd-numbered hulls). The Independence variant team is led by Austal USA in Mobile, Alabama (for LCS-6 and the subsequent even-numbered hulls).
LCS-21 is the 11th Freedom-variant LCS, the 21st in the class. She is the second ship named in honor of Minnesota’s twin cities. The first was a Los Angeles-class fast attack submarine that served from 1984 to 2008. Two U.S. Navy ships have been named for Minneapolis and two for St. Paul.
Ship Design Specifications
Advanced semiplaning steel monohull
389 feet/118.6 m
57 feet/17.5 m
13.5 feet/4.1 m
Full Load Displacement
Approximately 3,200 metric tons
Greater than 40 knots/46 mph/74 km/h
Range at top speed
1,000 NM/1,151 miles/1,852 km
Range at cruise speed
4,000 NM/4,603 miles/7,408 km
Watercraft Launch and Recovery
Up to Sea State 4
Aircraft Launch and Recovery
Up to Sea State 5
Combined diesel and gas turbine with steerable water jet propulsion
85 MW/113,600 horsepower
Two MH-60 Romeo Helicopters
One MH-60 Romeo Helicopter and three Vertical Take-off and Land Tactical Unmanned Air Vehicles (VTUAVs)
Less than 50
Accommodations for 75 sailors provide higher sailor quality of life than current fleet
Integrated Bridge System
Fully digital nautical charts are interfaced to ship sensors to support safe ship operation
Core Self-Defense Suite
Includes 3D air search radar
Electro-Optical/Infrared (EO/IR) gunfire control system
Airbus has successfully completed a flight demonstration of a connected airborne battlespace scenario, centred on a Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) aircraft. The test was carried out as part of the development of Airbus’ Network for the Sky (NFTS) programme. This follows on from last August’s demonstration in Canada of secure mobile communications using a stratospheric balloon to simulate a High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), such as Airbus’ Zephyr Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV).
NFTS combines various technologies – satellite and ground communications, air-to-ground, ground-to-air and air-to-air tactical links, 5G mobile communications and laser connections – in a resilient, unified, secure, highly interoperable, mesh network. Aircraft, UAVs and helicopters currently use networks with limited bandwidth and interoperability, and often little resilience. NFTS will allow them to form an integral part of high-speed military networks.
«This unique demonstration is a significant milestone in realising our vision of secure connectivity, which will enable the future air combat cloud and enhance real time execution of military missions», said Evert Dudok, Head of Communications, Intelligence & Security at Airbus Defence and Space.
The demonstration scenario simulates the establishment of multi-Mbit/s, wideband communication links between ground forces operatives, a fighter jet, a MRTT, and a Combined Air Operations Centre (CAOC) on the ground. Both the operatives and jet fighter had to send video in real time to provide enhanced real-time situational awareness and receive instructions from the CAOC in return.
The operative located in Getafe (Spain) was equipped with a standard handheld radio for NATO forces (ROVER). The fighter was deployed to obtain imagery of the area of interest and act as a communications node between the operative and the MRTT flying at 30,000 feet/9,144 m within a 150 km/93 miles radius in secure airspace. Communications were thus relayed between the fighter jet and the MRTT, via a wideband Line-Of-Sight (LOS) data link. The MRTT then routed the video along with its own communications via a wideband satellite link to a space teleport near Washington, D.C. The communications flow was then returned to Europe via a terrestrial link to the CAOC.
This complex scenario demonstrates the real-time operation of secure end-to-end communications across different networks and technologies: ground-air tactical link, air-air wideband link between two aircrafts, air-satellite relay and terrestrial networks. This type of configuration, known as a «hybrid network», represents the future of military communications and meets the needs of armed forces to be able to use a wide range of networks while allowing these to be managed dynamically and transparently. The solutions developed by Airbus thus allow secure Internet Protocol (IP) communications to be established, links to be reconfigured in real time and the available bandwidth to be allocated to data links based on operational priorities.
For this demonstration an MRTT aircraft has been equipped with Janus, Airbus’ new tri-band (Ku-Ka-MilKa) satellite antenna, as well as the latest version of the Proteus satellite modem, which is highly resilient against interference and jamming, and Airbus’ Aircraft Links Integration Management System (ALIMS).
This exercise paves the way for the development of the core capability for SMART MRTT connectivity, which will allow the MRTT to act as a high-end communication node. Network for the Sky (NFTS) sets the foundation for the connected airborne battlespace, with the objective to offer a full operational capability by 2020. The NFTS programme is part of Airbus’ Future Air Power project and is fully aligned with the development of the European Future Combat Air System (FCAS).
Over the five years of grinding war that has pitted Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed fighters, the United States has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in military gear: night-vision goggles, flak jackets, vehicles, counter-battery radars, among other things.
Last year, after years of internal debate that preceded his administration, President Donald Trump began supplying Ukraine with sophisticated anti-tank missiles known as Javelins – a move that some feared would antagonize Moscow.
Now, U.S. lawmakers are moving to up the ante again, with legislation that would authorize supplying Kyiv with surface-to-air missiles.
The effort comes in an amendment being attached to legislation providing funding for the Defense Department; the amendment removes existing language prohibiting the sale of such missiles, known as MAN-Portable Air-Defense Systems, or MANPADS.
Sponsored by the two top lawmakers on the House Foreign Affairs Committee – Democrat Eliot Engel and Republican Michael McCaul – the measure, which is expected to pass easily, does not mean that the weapons will be supplied right away.
Any final decision would have to go through multiple approval processes at various U.S. agencies, including the U.S. Defense Department.
Moreover, targets for Ukrainian surface-to-air missiles are limited for now: Russia-backed separatists don’t have fighter jets, and Russia sending its own aircraft over Ukraine would undermine its assertions that it is not involved in the conflict.
Still, the move sends a clear message to the Kremlin of where Congress stands regarding the war in Ukraine. And, according to Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, it’s a logical next step after the U.S. decision to supply Javelins to the Ukrainian armed forces.
«I don’t see this as generating more problems than the arrival of the Javelins did», Pifer, now a research fellow at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). «We’re not talking about providing the Ukrainians with F-35 fighters or M-1 tanks».
The Defense Department did not immediately respond to a query seeking comment on the possibility of supplying the missiles.
One U.S. diplomat who has worked on Ukraine-related issues downplayed the significance of the amendment, telling RFE/RL on the condition of anonymity in order to speak freely that it simply removed «an arbitrary restriction that is not in place for most countries».
The move comes as part of a broader effort in Congress to increase military support for Ukraine. Two separate pieces of legislation making their way through the House and the Senate call for authorizing up to $300 million in annual military support for Ukraine, an increase from past years.
And the House legislation calls for the first time for supplying anti-ship missiles and coastal-defense weaponry to Ukraine in response to an incident in November 2018, when Russian Coast Guard ships seized three Ukrainian boats and 24 sailors in the Kerch Strait near the Crimean Peninsula.
Though the overall death toll has surpassed 13,000, fighting around Ukraine’s Donbas region has ebbed and flowed in intensity since 2014, when the conflict with Russia first erupted.
In recent weeks, there’s been a sharp uptick in artillery shelling and gunfire, with Ukraine’s military reporting that at least six soldiers were killed last week.
It’s unclear how Russia would respond if Washington did in fact move forward to supply the surface-to-air missiles.
And it’s unclear how that would affect stalled peace negotiations, including the so-called Minsk Trilateral Contact Group meetings and the Normandy Format talks. Ukraine’s newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, has called for restarting both efforts; last week, the Trilateral Group – comprised of officials from Russia, Ukraine, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe – met for the first time in weeks.
But Konstantin Kosachyov, a member of Russia’s upper house of parliament and a Kremlin ally, criticized the overall increase in U.S. military funding for Ukraine.
«In this way Washington fuels Ukraine’s internal conflict. Such foreign support may create a dangerous delusion in Kiev that a solution can be achieved by military means», Kosachyov said in a post to his Facebook page on June 11. «Each million dollars of military support to Kiev spells more casualties and months and even years of war against one’s own people, for which the United States will bear its share of responsibility».
The MANPADS would have no immediate battlefield use, Pifer noted, since Russian military aircraft have not been used in the conflict. Drones, however, are widely used by both sides in the conflict.
While Moscow reacted angrily when Washington agreed to supply the Javelins to Ukraine, there have been few remarks by Russian officials on the subject since the 210 missiles and 37 launchers arrived in April 2018.
Ukraine has showcased the Javelins in publicized drills but its armed forces have not used them in combat against Russia-backed forces in eastern battlefields.
The special U.S. envoy for Ukraine, Kurt Volker, has said that the Javelins are being stored in a secure facility far from the front line.
Ukrainian and U.S. sources with knowledge of the storage locations have told RFE/RL that the missiles and launchers have been separated into smaller groups and are held in strategic locations around the country, possibly in underground bunkers, where they can be moved quickly to areas that border Russia or the eastern front line.
In March, the top U.S. military commander for Europe told the Senate Armed Services Committee that even if the Javelins hadn’t been deployed, their presence had been registered by Russia-backed forces.
«They take that into consideration in the deployment of their forces and where they put them», General Curtis Scaparrotti told the committee.
Since 2014, Ukraine has received more than $3 billion in total support, including security and nonsecurity assistance, from the United States.
Sikorsky, a Lockheed Martin company, will build six production VH-92A Presidential Helicopters under a contract from the U.S Navy. These helicopters are part of the 23 aircraft program of record for the U.S. Marine Corps.
Under the terms of the contract, known as Low Rate Initial Production (LRIP) Lot 1, Sikorsky will begin deliveries of six VH-92A helicopters in 2021. The remaining production aircraft will be delivered in 2022 and 2023. The contract also provides spares and training support.
The contract award follows an affirmative Milestone C decision on May 30 from the U.S. Navy moving the development program into production.
«The authorization to exercise the program’s first Low-Rate Initial Production lot is a testament to the hard work and dedication from the team to deliver this important asset on budget and within the planned acquisition timeline», said U.S. Marine Corps Colonel Eric Ropella, PMA-274 presidential helicopter program manager. «This award is an example of acquisition done right».
Helicopter Proves Ready for Presidential Mission
The VH-92A test aircraft at Patuxent River, Maryland, have proven their production readiness by undergoing rigorous U.S. government testing and operational assessments, which included operating on the south lawn of the White House. The VH-92A has flown over 520 flight test hours establishing the aircraft’s technical maturity and readiness of its mission systems.
«This production decision validates the modifications to Sikorsky’s most successful commercial helicopter making it capable to transport the President of the United States at anytime, anywhere around the world», said Dave Banquer, Sikorsky VH-92A program director. «Sikorsky has been building and providing helicopter transportation for every U.S. President and Commander in Chief since Dwight D. Eisenhower. We are excited to build the next generation of transport with the VH-92A helicopter».
Prepared for Production
The VH-92A aircraft will provide safe, reliable and capable transportation for the President, Vice President and foreign heads of state.
This program ensures long term affordability and maintainability by utilizing the FAA certified S-92 aircraft which has industry leading reliability and availability. The S-92 fleet surpassed 1.5 million flight hours in April and averages 14,600 hours of safe flight per month.
Sikorsky and the U.S. Navy integrate mature mission and communication systems into the aircraft. This aircraft provides communication capability to perform the duties of Commander in Chief, Head of State and Chief Executive.
First Training System Delivered
Lockheed Martin delivered and installed the first VH-92A training device at the Presidential Helicopter Squadron HMX-1 in Quantico, Virginia, earlier this year. Marine pilots, avionics technicians and squadron personnel are actively engaged in hands-on learning through the suite of devices. The Flight Training Device (FTD) is a replica of the VH-92A cockpit to give pilots mission-oriented flight training in a simulation-based training device.
The training suite allows maintainers to hone their skills to effectively maintain the aircraft and practice troubleshooting.
Maritime forces from 18 nations commenced the in-port operations for the 47th annual multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS) in the Baltic Sea, June 9-21.
BALTOPS is the premier annual maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region and one of the largest exercises in northern Europe, enhancing flexibility and interoperability among allied and partner nations.
Vice Admiral Andrew Lewis, commander of the U.S. 2nd Fleet, will lead the exercise on behalf of Naval Forces Europe.
«No one nation can face today’s challenges alone, we are much stronger together», Lewis said. «Our partner and NATO alliances must continue to strengthen our deterrence and defense efforts and adapt through improving readiness and responsiveness».
The focus of the exercise is for ground, maritime and air forces to work together in exercising air defense, maritime interdiction, anti-subsurface warfare, mine countermeasures and amphibious operations, to strengthen the development of joint teams across all layers of the battlespace.
The exercise will include the participation of 50 surface ships, 36 aircraft, two submarines and 8,600 personnel in a joint operational environment.
«I think BALTOPS represents the habit we have made in operating in a coalition environment and in a multinational environment», said U.K. Royal Navy Rear Adm. Andrew Burns OBE. «One of the advantages, particularly in the NATO framework, as we operate together more and more, we standardize our procedures so we now have a generation of military folk who are used to operating together with standard procedures».
Nations participating in BALTOPS 2019 include Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States.
BALTOPS is an opportunity to promote partnerships, presence, and professionalism through an unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region.
Northrop Grumman Corporation shipped the inert abort motor for NASA’s Orion spacecraft Launch Abort System (LAS) from the Northrop Grumman facility in Magna, Utah, to Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It will be integrated with the LAS and Orion spacecraft destined for the first flight of NASA’s Space Launch System, designated Artemis 1.
The abort motor is a key component of the LAS, which provides an enhancement in spaceflight safety for astronauts. The shipment of the abort motor brings Orion one step closer to Artemis 1 and to enabling humans to explore the moon, Mars and other deep-space destinations beyond low-Earth orbit.
«Crew safety is always a top priority, and Orion’s Launch Abort System is state-of-the-art», said Charlie Precourt, vice president, propulsion systems, Northrop Grumman, and former four-time shuttle astronaut. «The solid propulsion we use in the abort motor is high-performing and reliable; it should inspire confidence in any future Orion crew members and their families».
The purpose of Orion’s LAS is to safely pull the spacecraft and crew out of harm’s way in the event of an emergency on the launch pad or during initial launch ascent. The abort motor underwent a series of component tests culminating in a successful static test in December 2018 at the Northrop Grumman facility in Promontory, Utah. Data from these tests confirmed motor activation within milliseconds and under both extreme cold and hot temperatures, ensuring crew safety.
The abort motor, which stands over 17 feet/5.2 m tall and spans three feet in diameter, is unique in that it has a manifold with four exhaust nozzles. The motor, shipped via thoroughfare in a transporter, will be unloaded at Kennedy Space Center. Integrating the abort motor is the first step in Orion’s LAS integration process.
Northrop Grumman’s next major abort motor milestone is the Ascent Abort-2 Flight Test (AA-2) set to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, in early July. In addition to the launch abort motor, Northrop Grumman is providing the launch vehicle designed to simulate an SLS launch for AA-2. The abort will take place during Max-Q, when the dynamic pressure on the spacecraft is greatest.
Northrop Grumman is responsible for the launch abort motor through a contract to Lockheed Martin, Orion’s prime contractor. The Orion LAS program is managed out of NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia. Northrop Grumman produces the abort motor at its Magna, Utah facility and the attitude control motor for the LAS at the company’s Elkton, Maryland facility. The company also manufactures the composite case for the abort motor at its facility in Clearfield, Utah.