Orbital ATK Receives $20 Million Contract for Solid Booster Technology

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

The ground test of Orbital ATK’s five-segment rocket motor, known as QM-1, ocurred on March 11, 2015. (Credit: Orbital ATK)[/caption]The U.S. Air Force has awarded a $20 million contract to ATK Launch Systems for “advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology.”

The award is an “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee and firm-fixed-price contract for advanced rocket technology-solid boost technology. This contract provides a contract vehicle the Air Force Research Laboratory, aerospace systems, and rocket propulsion division can use to establish task orders to advance solid rocket motor technologies and address technical needs for next-generation strategic, tactical, and spacecraft propulsion systems,” according to the contract announcement.

“Work will be performed in Corinne, Utah, and is expected to be completed by Oct. 16, 2022,” the announcement states. “This award is the result of a competitive acquisition, with two offers received. Fiscal 2017 research, development, test and evaluation funds in the amount of $650,000 are being obligated at the time of award. Air Force Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, California, is the contracting activity.”

  • Does “indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity, hybrid cost-plus-fixed fee“ mean “take as long as you like, send us what you can, and we’ll pay whatever you ask plus a bit more”?

    No wonder Spacex is cleaning up.

  • duheagle

    I sympathize with the sentiment, but this contract isn’t about space launch, it’s about a new ICBM to replace the Minuteman III.

  • windbourne

    yeah, we should have kept the MX, while getting rid of the Minuteman.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    MIRV’s were taken down to 1 RV after the Cold War. Minuteman made much more sense in place of the Peacekeeper. Minuteman is still good enough unless you think that arms control means you build as many missiles and RVs as you can until you’re broke. If your nuclear policy includes wanting the option of riding out a first strike you want a balance of exercising MIRV for your own first strike option, but at the same time you don’t want to super concentrate your RV’s on a few missiles. Minuteman is a balanced ICBM, the option of first strike is there, as is the option of riding one out by complicating the problems of the attacker by providing extra targets. It also provides more options for covering targets should a LV fail or get taken out in a first strike. If an SS-18 fails on launch or gets plinked by incoming, that’s 10 targets that lose an RV, if a Minuteman fails or gets taken out, only 3 targets lose an allocated RV.

  • windbourne

    yeah, but we could have adapted the MX to a single RV. Minuteman is old. MX was very new when we killed it.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    Peacekeeper is HUGE compared to Minuteman, to have to mix, pour, and cure all that solid fuel for one RV as compared to Minuteman just makes no sense. Depending on whether the Chinese build a couterforce nuclear strike force, and whether the worlds powers adopt conventional hyperaccurate prompt global strike, the calculus on all this will probably change. I would not be surprised at some point to see someone adopt a Falcon 9 style booster with a recoverable 2nd stage act as a prompt global ballistic, and fractional orbital global conventional striker.

  • duheagle

    You both make good points. The best thing about this new contract is that it indicates the U.S. is finally getting off the dime about upgrading the strategic deterrent forces, something largely ignored since the Reagan administration.

    Not that the projected timetable is very impressive compared to that which is being replaced. The U.S. designed, built and fielded all three generations of Minuteman in less time than it’s planned to take to do likewise for this new missile – initial operational capability is pegged at 2030, 13 years hence.

    There was some talk awhile back about possibly combining the replacement programs for both the Minuteman and Trident D-5 into a single vehicle. That would still be a good idea and the ample schedule for the Minuteman replacement program allows plenty of time to address all the fine points of doing so. In this scenario, the Minuteman replacement would just be the D-5 replacement with all its stages promoted one place and a new 1st stage at the bottom.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    All of those stages are getting old, aren’t they ? Sure, you can keep the same basic design for the upper stages if you wish, but isn’t it time to start replacing all of those solid motors, regardless of what stage they are ?

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    You could even put the D-5 replacement in a silo with fewer warheads to allow for global reach. then put a lower stage later after the strategic situation pans out and you find out if single warhead is fine or if you have to go hog wild and join the SS-18 re-creators society.

  • duheagle

    Lots of possible branching paths forward to be sure. One thing the new missile definitely needs to incorporate is that extensible aerospike thing on the nose of the D-5.

  • duheagle

    My understanding is that Minuteman missiles are still in a sort of low rate production mode. New missiles replace oldest ones on an established schedule by repotting the warhead bus. A handful of those replaced every year get shipped to Vandy for test launches against Kwajalein.