The first in a series of planned tests of the Aerojet solid rocket motor (SRM) for future versions of the Lockheed Martin Atlas V launcher was only partially successful, it has been revealed.

During the test on 15 March, the motor fired for the planned 95s, but only 30s of the test was successful. During the remaining minute, exhaust appeared to leak from the area of the nozzle, while thrust and internal pressure dropped. The motor's propellant is designed to reduce stress on the Atlas V vehicle during ignition and lift-off.

Aerojet is building the Atlas V SRM under a $500 million contract. The first flight of an Atlas using the SRMs is set for next year. An Atlas V is capable of carrying from two to five SRMs, with a maximum 8,670kg (19,000lb) capability to geostationary transfer orbit.

Meanwhile, the first Atlas V booster has passed its first full propellant loading exercises and a simulated countdown test on launch pad 41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The tests are in preparation for its maiden launch this summer, operated by International Launch Services and carrying Eutelsat's Hot Bird 6 communications satellite.

The Atlas V-001 was rolled to the pad on its mobile launch platform from a new vertical integration facility - a first for any Atlas vehicle, which have previously been assembled on the launch pad.


Source: Flight International