Tag Archives: Liberty rocket

ATK’s push to build its Liberty launch system.

The competition heats up: ATK’s push to build its Liberty launch system.

Liberty was one of the suitors [for NASA’s commercial crew] funding, before losing out to the four aforementioned options during the selection process. However, ATK decided to press on with the development of the system under an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA), with a clear intent of convincing NASA they deserve to be awarded funding for the path towards crewed launches.

Indeed, ATK have stated that they will continue with the development of Liberty regardless of NASA funding, as much as Agency support would provide an accelerated schedule towards bringing the vehicle into operation by 2015. [emphasis mine]

If you read the article, you will see that there are many reasons why I would rather NASA did not pick ATK. The system depends too much on the shuttle’s legacy at the Kennedy Space Center (the VAB, crawler, etc), which means it will probably require a large labor force to launch and thus be expensive. However, if ATK can make Liberty profitable without NASA, I am all for them.

NASA and ATK sign new launch development agreement

At a press conference today, NASA and ATK announced a new launch development agreement, running through March 2012, to help develop ATK’s Liberty solid rocket into a launch vehicle that could bring both cargo and crews to ISS.

The agreement provides ATK no funds, but is designed to give ATK as much support from NASA as possible in developing Liberty, tested fired last week for only the third time. If this initial agreement goes well, it will position ATK to compete for the next round of development subsidizes.

According to ATK, they think they could launch by 2015, and are hoping to provide a rocket capable of flying the spacecraft and freighters of Boeing, Sierra Nevada, Blue Origin, and even SpaceX (should Falcon 9 have problems and they need a rocket to launch Dragon).
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Speculation on what the ATK/NASA announcement later today will be about

More speculation here and here on what the ATK/NASA announcement later today will be about. As Jeff Foust notes,

Last Friday NASA announced that the space agency and ATK would announce an agreement this Tuesday “that could accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities”. (The announcement was originally going to be only available to media calling into a telecon line, but NASA said Monday the announcement will be on NASA TV at 3 pm EDT.) The announcement has generated various degrees of glee or despair, depending on one’s opinions about ATK’s work on solid rocket motors it has proposed for its Liberty rocket and is seeking to have incorporated into NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket.