Looking like a carefully choreographed fireworks display, this video actually shows the full-scale ground test of Alliant Techsystems' (ATK) attitude control motor for the launch abort system on NASA's Orion crew exploration vehicle. I get a feeling the engineers had fun designing this test sequence.
ATK is supplying both the abort motor and attitude control motor (ACM) for the launch abort system (LAS), which Orbital Sciences is developing under subcontract to Orion prime contractor Lockheed Martin. Attached to the crew module, the LAS will be able to pull the crew clear in the event of an Ares I launcher failure on the pad or during the ascent to obit.
While the 400,000lb-thrust soild-rocket abort motor would pull the crew module clear of the Ares I, the ACM would stabilize and steer the vehicle to safety and reorient the capsule for its release from the abort system, after which it would deploy its parachutes and land normally.
Mounted near to tip of the LAS, the ACM consists of a solid-propellent gas generator with eight valves spaced equally around the circumference of the 3ft-diameter motor. Together, these valves can generate up to 7,000lb of steering force in any direction, as the video vividly illustrates. This test, of development motor DM-1, was the sixth in a series of ground tests of the ACM.