ATK: Liberty Launcher’s Upper Stage Could Fly by 2014

WASHINGTON — Alliant Techsystems (ATK), one in every of at the least 4 corporations competing to develop into NASA’s post-shuttle crew-transport supplier, mentioned not too long ago accomplished tank construction assessments confirmed that modifications to the Ariane 5-derived cryogenic higher stage it plans to make use of for its Liberty launcher will be accomplished in time to start check flights in 2014.

ATK’s Promontory, Utah-based house launch division goals to conduct an unmanned check launch of Liberty in 2014 adopted by the rocket’s first crewed launch in 2015 — a growth schedule the corporate mentioned will maintain it on monitor to fulfill NASA’s objective of shopping for privately operated astronaut flights to the worldwide house station by 2017.

ATK’s Liberty system includes a rocket of the identical identify and a composite crew capsule modeled after the Orion Multi-Function Crew Car that Lockheed Martin House Programs is constructing for NASA. The rocket’s core stage might be a five-segment stable motor developed by ATK for NASA’s canceled Ares 1 crew launcher. Liberty’s second stage is a modified Ariane 5 cryogenic important stage powered by a Vulcain 2 engine constructed by Paris-based Safran’s Snecma rocket-motor division.

Ariane 5 is constructed for launch operator Arianespace of Evry, France, by a consortium lead by Astrium House Transportation. As Europe’s workhorse rocket, Ariane 5 flew 5 instances in 2011 and is anticipated to fly seven instances in 2012. ATK has mentioned Ariane 5’s launch quantity will permit it to purchase phases comparatively cheaply. Nonetheless, some modifications are wanted in order that the cryogenic stage can trip safely atop ATK’s stable booster.

Astrium “has efficiently accomplished a set of assessments on tank constructions proving that key design and manufacturing processes used for Ariane launchers are prepared for manufacturing of the Liberty business launch automobile second stage,” ATK wrote in a June 28 press launch. “The assessments overlaying load-carrying cryogenic tanks display that current Astrium processes will be leveraged to substantiate the general Liberty schedule.”

The Liberty rocket’s maiden flight, an uncrewed check, is scheduled for 2014. A crewed check flight is on the slate for 2015. Each would launch from Pad 39B on the Kennedy House Heart in Florida, ATK spokesman George Torres mentioned.

ATK additionally mentioned June 28 it picked NanoRacks of Houston as a advertising agent for each crewed and uncrewed Liberty flights. NanoRacks, a 3-year-old firm that makes standardized containers and science tools designed for “plug-and-play” performance, already has a few of its lab tools put in onboard the worldwide house station.

“This teaming settlement permits NanoRacks to market to explorers from across the globe a Liberty mission consisting of transportation into low Earth orbit, on-orbit operations and a secure return to Earth for as much as seven folks and their analysis and/or tools,” ATK mentioned in a press launch.

ATK, together with Boeing House Exploration, Sierra Nevada House Programs and House Exploration Applied sciences Corp., is competing for an award underneath NASA’s Business Crew Built-in Functionality (CCiCap) program. All of those corporations have mentioned they’ll fly a crewed demonstration flight later this decade if NASA funds their proposals.

CCiCap is the third part of NASA’s Business Crew Program, the company’s effort to spur growth of privately operated astronaut taxis that would finish U.S. dependence on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft. NASA now pays $60 million a seat to get its astronauts to and from the worldwide house station aboard Soyuz capsules.

CCiCap Awards are anticipated in mid-July. Two corporations may get funded House Act Agreements price $300 million to $500 million yearly over a 21-month efficiency interval. A 3rd firm may get an award price half as a lot, per a compromise reached in early June between the company and U.S. Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.), chairman of the Home Appropriations commerce, justice science subcommittee. CCiCap is designed to get at the least two competing designs able to enter manufacturing.

NASA needs to start privately operated astronaut flights by 2017, however the company says that won’t occur until Congress will increase the Business Crew Program’s annual funding by lots of of thousands and thousands of {dollars} starting in 2014. This system acquired $406 million in 2012. Congress is poised to extend that to $525 million for 2013. NASA and the White Home have mentioned they want upward of $800 million a 12 months to make this system work.

 

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