ATK Pitches Liberty Rocket for Commercial Crew Program

LOS ANGELES — The aerospace firm that constructed the solid-rocket boosters for NASA’s area shuttle fleet introduced plans Might 9 to develop its personal non-public launch system — a spaceship and rocket — to fly astronauts to and from low Earth orbit. The primary manned flight may launch in about three years, firm officers stated.

Magna, Utah-based Alliant Techsystems, or ATK, introduced the brand new venture right here on the first Spacecraft Expertise Expo, the place 1000’s of presidency and business officers have gathered to debate revolutionary new applied sciences and the way forward for human spaceflight.

ATK had already been engaged on a brand new non-public rocket, referred to as Liberty, which it submitted as a contender within the second spherical of NASA’s Business Crew Improvement program final 12 months. Finally, the Liberty rocket was not chosen to obtain funding, however ATK continued growth of the booster beneath an unfunded Area Act Settlement with NASA. As a part of this association, NASA shares its experience in designing and testing the rocket however doesn’t present cash for the venture.

Now, ATK has unveiled plans for an entire launch system centered across the Liberty rocket. The design features a area capsule to hold passengers to locations in low Earth orbit, such because the worldwide area station, stated Kent Rominger, vice chairman and program supervisor for Liberty.

“The purpose is to supply a brand new launch functionality for the nation,” Rominger stated. “The car is designed to be very, quite simple, and inherently extra secure and dependable. We actually consider the entire system is designed for fulfillment.” The spacecraft will be capable to carry seven passengers, or varied mixtures of crew and cargo. ATK additionally hopes to supply launch companies for U.S. authorities satellites ultimately, Rominger stated.

The composite crew module was constructed by ATK at its Iuka, Miss., facility as a part of an earlier NASA program headed by the company’s Langley Analysis Middle in Hampton, Va., from 2007 to 2010. This system aimed to evaluate whether or not composite supplies have been a viable different to aluminum lithium on NASA’s Orion Multi-Goal Crew Automobile, which is being constructed for future manned exploration flights to deep area.

“For Liberty, it made an enormous quantity of sense since composites have been one in every of our competencies,” Rominger stated. “We needed to tug in all of the provides and leverage all of the work that has already gone into the system.”

The look of the capsule might be just like the Orion capsule, besides it would solely carry out flights to and from low Earth orbit. The capsule, which can land over water, might be reusable as much as 10 occasions, Rominger stated.

However ATK is hoping to make use of Liberty for extra than simply taxi rides to the area station.

“We’re area tourism,” Rominger stated. “Additionally different [space] stations, akin to Bigelow — we can assist construct the station. We’re additionally different nations that aren’t companions on the area station that want to have stand-alone missions.”

ATK is aiming to start take a look at flights of the Liberty system in 2014, with the primary manned mission anticipated to happen in late 2015, ATK officers stated. This schedule signifies that Liberty might be obtainable to NASA and different potential clients by 2016.

In September, ATK accomplished a full-scale take a look at of Liberty’s five-segment strong motor — the world’s largest solid-rocket motor, which was initially designed to be the primary stage of the Ares 1 rocket that NASA deliberate to make use of to launch the Orion capsule on journeys to the Moon. The rocket was shelved after the company’s Moon-bound Constellation program was scrapped.

Liberty will use the unique Ares 1 booster as a primary stage and the second stage of European aerospace agency Astrium’s Ariane 5 rocket as its higher stage. The large Liberty rocket will tower at 91 meters tall, firm officers have stated.

“Liberty can carry greater than another system,” Rominger stated. “Our capabilities can carry seven crew and vital cargo, which I believe is exclusive. We actually are a launch system designed for the twenty first century to convey higher reliability and security.”

With NASA’s area shuttle fleet retired, the area company now depends on Russian Soyuz rockets and spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the area station till business options in america grow to be obtainable. NASA hopes that can occur by 2017.

The company pays roughly $63 million per seat on Soyuz flights. However the Liberty system is designed to be cheaper, Rominger stated. He didn’t disclose the projected value per seat, however did say it is going to be “considerably lower than what we’re paying the Russians in the present day.”

The Liberty system is being in-built partnership with Astrium, whose Ariane 5 rocket has served as Europe’s main booster for launching satellites and spacecraft into orbit.

“One of many very thrilling features of this program is having confirmed groups which have actually labored on advanced applications in varied methods collectively,” stated John Schumacher, chief government of Astrium in North America. “That is the business business coming collectively to supply a functionality constructed on earlier take a look at work and funding in a really lean, business method.”

Schumacher stated Liberty’s Ariane 5-based higher stage and the cryogenic Vulcain 2 engine that powers it could initially be in-built Europe and shipped to Kennedy Area Middle, Fla., for integration. “Nonetheless, as soon as Liberty’s enterprise base is established within the U.S. market, we envisage Liberty upper-stage manufacturing in america,” he stated.

Lockheed Martin can even present help as a significant subcontractor for the Liberty System, ATK officers right here stated. This work consists of designing varied parts for the spacecraft, akin to avionics, propulsion programs, navigation and management, and the car’s docking system.

“The infrastructure we put in place that’s already there to help testing and manufacturing goes to shorten the timeline,” stated Scott Norris, chief of the Liberty program at Lockheed Martin. “All three of our corporations have labored collectively up to now, integrating issues and dealing collectively. I believe we’re nicely poised to satisfy our schedule, as aggressive as it’s, with issues we’ve already paid for up to now.”

The Liberty rocket and spacecraft have been submitted for consideration for the third and closing spherical of funding beneath NASA’s Business Crew Program, Rominger stated. The company’s alternatives are anticipated to be introduced in August. Within the meantime, ATK is raring to proceed growth of the Liberty system.

“For us as a nation, we’d like business crew and heavy carry to take care of our management in area,” Rominger stated. “To me, it appears to be like like this can be a group that we, as a nation, ought to be very comfy with. Let’s do that so we will get U.S. astronauts launching from the U.S. by 2015.”

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