Tag Archives: solid rocket motor

ATK and ULA yesterday successfully tested the solid rocket strap-on motor that is used by their Delta 4 rocket.

The competition heats up: ATK and ULA yesterday successfully tested the solid rocket strap-on motor that is used by their Delta 4 rocket. With video.

They are using a new manufacturer for the motor’s nozzle, and needed to test this under cold conditions.

ATK prepares for another test firing of its five-segment solid rocket motor.

ATK prepares for another test firing of its five-segment solid rocket motor.

The qualification campaign, led by rocket-builder ATK, will prove the solid-fueled motor is ready to help propel the Space Launch System from Earth on two test flights in 2017 and 2021.

Though obviously funded out of the Space Launch System program (SLS), there is no guarantee at this moment that ATK’s solid rocket will be used in these test flights. NASA has said that they are considering all options for picking the launch rocket.

In a sense, we are now seeing a side benefit produced by relying on independent and competing private companies to get into space. It has placed pressure on NASA and the companies building SLS to perform. Unlike in the past, when failure to produce a new rocket or spaceship meant that NASA would simply propose a new concept and start again, now failure will mean that someone else might get the work. The result: SLS might actually get built, for less money and faster.

Though I don’t see how NASA can possibly cut the costs down to compete with these private companies, their effort might succeed enough for Congress to keep the money spigots open until the rocket gets built.

Even as I say this I remain skeptical. Considering the federal budget situation, the politics of the upcoming election, and the strong possibility that private companies will successfully provide that launch capability at a tenth the cost, I expect that sometime in the next two or three years Congress will finally balk at SLS’s cost, and eliminate it.

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.

ATK test fires the five segment solid rocket for Ares 1

ATK today successfully test fired the five segment solid rocket originally intended for the Ares 1 rocket. More here.

This solid rocket motor has value, but ATK’s hope that NASA will use it as part of the Congressionally designed Space Launch System, what I call the program-formerly-called-Constellation, is probably a false hope. They might get a few years of funding from Congress, but the whole thing will die stillborn when the funding runs out.

Better that they packaged the motor as part of a private launch system and tried to get some commercial business with it.

Regardless, the video is fun to watch. Check it out.