Tacoma, Washington – General Plastics’ Last-A-Foam FR-4306 polyurethane foam is being used for a critical component in Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket boosters. The rockets are under development for NASA missions to explore deep space.
At the end of June, the second of two booster qualification motor tests on the NASA Space Launch System (SLS) was successfully carried out in Promontory, Utah. The SLS, used with the Orion spacecraft, is a flexible deep space exploration platform to transport people and cargo.
Last-A-Foam FR-4306 is a flame-retardant structural polyurethane foam. Orbital ATK’s five-segment motors use the product as nozzle closures for its two booster rockets. These plugs securely close the rocket opening before use or ignition. This seal controls moisture levels, and ensures nothing can get into the motor when the rocket is in storage.
ATK Orbital is now taking the motor apart to assess performance, including how the nozzle closures broke apart. This was captured using cameras and mirrors. The individual pieces were collected after the test, and will be evaluated for size and debris generated. The data will be used to determine if any modifications will be required.
This was the last full-scale test for the booster before the SLS’s first uncrewed test flight using the Orion capsule in late 2018, a key milestone on NASA’s Journey to Mars. The SLS will be the most powerful rocket ever flown. Its two booster rockets will operate alongside four main engines for the first two minutes of flight, and provide more than 75% of the thrust needed to escape Earth’s gravitational pull.
“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,” said General Plastics senior account manager Rick Brown. “We are proud to support the SLS programme and contribute to these ambitious missions.”