ATK Liberty Announcement

Kent Rominger
VP, Strategy and Business — Space Launch Systems, ATK

ATK has a complete system now….

  • Composite Crew module that Langely was working on — alternative to aluminum capsule — essentially a scaled down Orion MPCV — heat shield not as strong (not coming back from the moon)
  • Service module — a modified version of what has been developed for Orion MPCV
  • Abrt system — Max Launch abort system — been tested once.
  • Lockheed now a major subcontractor on the team

Rapid execution — 2015 is when I’m going to fly crew

Our system is the safest system ever designed to fly humans into space
We have a robust business case
We are extremely complettive — been working very hard on it….

Unprecedented solution that will be here a long time

Starting out with a system that is designed for crew — can take out redundant systems for satellite launches

Don’t need all the capability of the rocket for crew system — can carry extra fuel for station reboost, unpressurized cargo….

Baseline is a water landing — need to be able to land in the water in the event of an abort

Contingency for landing on ground — not as good for reusing spacecraft

Progress to date:

  • Composite crew frabricated and tested, including burst test
  • water drop tests validated recovery concepts
  • successfully completed acoustic testing
  • crew member flight suit evaluation completed
  • service module design and optimized for ISS crew and cargo delivery
  • Pusher abort system called Max Launch Abort System developed by NASA and industry
  • NASA Wallops completed successful pad abort test
  • solid propulsion main engines and jettison motor

Crew training starts at T minus 3 to 6 months — will make the system as user friendly as possible

  • Liberty is being designed from start for human crew launches…trajectory will allow crew to survive a failure
  • Other rockets have black zones in their trajectories where the crew will not survive even with an abort system

Solid Rocket booster flew 110 times after Challenger without a problem — learned from mistake, makes the rocket the most reliable rocket in world

Astrium’s John Schumacher

  • Ariane 5 has flown 47 times successfully
  • Liberty uses Ariane 5 first stage
  • Stage needs to be strengthened and modified for air launch — work is underway
  • Stage now made in Europe — eventual plans are to bring production to the United States
  • Proven experience of ATK, Lockheed and Astrium greatly helps with process, launching and operations
  • Astrium brings expertise in launching and docking ATV at ISS — helpful in docking crew vehicle
  • 10 flights for reuse with water landing


  • ISS crew (competing in CCDev/CCiCAP)
  • U.S. government satellite
  • NASA cargo up and down
  • Tourists
  • Other nations and private company “shuttle spacelab” type crewed missions


  • ATK, Astrium and Lockheed Martin bring decades of expertise
  • Taking a streamlined approach to building the system
  • Can fly any spacecraft that NASA approves for going to ISS with a lot of capacity left over


1.  How do you know if the 5-segment SRB can handle the load if you have only done three ground tests?

Rominger: Have done three ground tests. They came in exactly as predicted. And we have done a lot of analysis.  We feel very confident that we will not need any mitigation.

2.  How many flights is it good for?

Rominger: 10. We’ll know as we get toward flights 8 or 9 we’ll know if it can launch beyond 10 launches.

 3.  Will second stage be reusable?

Rominger: The entire rocket is expendable. Although we recovered SRBs on shuttle missions, our business case shows we’re better not recovering them.

4.  What happens if Liberty is not funded in next round?

Rominger: Yes. All development on Liberty has been on discretionary funding from the companies. Can’t meet the 2015 date without

5.  How much for a flight?

Rominger:  It’s less than what we’re paying the Russians for human flights aboard Soyuz. In blackout on competition for CCDev funding. Can’t specifically answer question on cost.

6. Targeted first flight?

Rominger: Two abort tests planned for 2014 — pad and in-flight. Two test flights in 2015 — one with a two-member crew aboard.

7.  What’s up with service module?

Rominger: Will do whatever NASA decides to do. American service module is the baseline for Liberty system. If NASA goes with European one, it is built by partner Astrium.