NASA announced yesterday that the Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK) Athena Launch Vehicle Family has been selected to become part of the agency’s Launch Services II contract.
Vehicles selected fulfill NASA’s requirements for domestic launch services with a minimum performance capability of placing a 250-kilogram (550 pound) spacecraft in a 200-kilometer low Earth orbit (LEO) at an inclination of 28.5 degrees. Athena can carry payloads up to 1800 kilograms (3968 pounds) to LEO. Utilizing a large volume 92-inch diameter payload fairing, the vehicle accommodates a wide range of satellites and missions as well as lunar missions.
Alliant Techsystems and NASA conducted a successful ground test earlier today of the second Ares five-segment Development Motor (DM-2). Â The successful test is an important milestone in the development of America’s next generation of launch vehicles.
Initial test data indicated that the motor, which was chilled to a 400 F core temperature since early July, performed as designed, producing approximately 3.6 million pounds of thrust, or 22 million horsepower, and burned for just over two minutes. Â The test collected 764 channels of data to accomplish 53 test objectives. Â This is the most data ATK has ever collected in a static fire test.
DM-2 and the future of SRBs This week NASA and ATK are scheduled to perform the second test-firing of a five-segment solid rocket motor originally developed for the Ares 1. Jeff Foust describes the planning for the test and its significance given the uncertain future of NASAâ€™s human spaceflight plans.
Dancing in the dark: The orbital rendezvous of SJ-12 and SJ-06F Earlier this month two Chinese satellites made a close approach to, and perhaps even made contact with, each other. Brian Weeden examines the facts about this event and its implications for space security.
Review: Eyes in the Sky This month marked the 50th anniversary of the first successful CORONA reconnaissance satellite mission. Dwayne Day reviews a recent book that examines the early history of CORONA and related efforts to track what was going on in the Soviet Union.
Alliant Techsystems (NYSE:ATK – News) and NASA will test the second fully developed Ares five-segment solid rocket motor, known as Development Motor-2 (DM-2). The five-segment rocket motor is an upgraded version of the Shuttle’s 4-segment booster, and has also been identified as a key element of NASA’s future Heavy Lift Launch vehicle.
What: Horizontal ground test firing of Ares DM-2
Date: Tuesday August 31, 2010
Time: 9:05 a.m. MDT
Where: ATK Aerospace Systems facility in Promontory, Utah
* A total of 53 design objectives will be measured through more than 760 instruments.
DM-2 is a “cold motor” test. The motor will be cooled to 40 degrees F to measure solid rocket motor performance at low temperature, as well as to verify design requirements of new materials in the motor joints. These new materials will allow for the elimination of joint heaters that were necessary in the original 4-segment motor design. This will save significant weight, further reduce system complexity and simplify launch operations, while simultaneously delivering increased operating margins at lower ambient temperatures.
Other objectives include data gathering on vital motor upgrades such as the new insulation and motor case liner and the redesigned nozzle which increase the robustness of the design.
When fired, the motor will produce a maximum thrust 3.6 million pounds, or 22 million horsepower.
The cases have all previously flown on the space shuttle, collectively launching on 57 missions.
A public viewing area is available along State Road 83 North approximately 20 miles west of Corinne, Utah.
Alliant Techsystems Cries Foul as NASA Moves To Curb Constellation Space News
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) says NASA is selectively applying a rarely used contracting rule in an effort to halt work on key elements of the agencyâ€™s Constellation program, a 5-year-old effort to replace the space shuttle with new hardware optimized for lunar missions that the White House has proposed canceling next year.
NASA asserts the Constellation program is facing a potential $1 billion funding shortfall in the remaining four months of the current budget year because contractors have not accurately accounted for termination liability costs they could incur as a result of having to cancel orders, vacate leases and pink-slip employees if the program is shut down. But Magna, Utah-based ATK Aerospace, prime contractor on the first stage of the Ares 1 rocket â€” a key Constellation program element â€” says that historically, termination liability funds have not been included in contractor costs.
Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK), have entered into a strategic teaming agreement to offer launch services utilizing upgraded and modernized Athena rockets. These vehicles, based on the flight-proven Athena I and II, are designed to provide reliable access to space for small payloads to a wide range of orbits. Lockheed Martin will provide mission management, payload integration, and launch operations, and ATK will provide integrated vehicle propulsion, launch vehicle structures, booster integration and launch site operations.
The two-stage Athena Ic and three-stage Athena IIc launch vehicles incorporate the new CASTORÂ® 30 upper stage motor and upgrades to electronic systems. Athena is available for launches beginning in 2012, with a payload lift capability that supports a variety of customer mission requirements including NASA, the Department of Defense and other space markets.
ATK, which is already reeling due to cuts in defense programs and the pending end of the space shuttle program, stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars if President Obama’s new plan for NASA is approved. Space News reports:
In a conference call with investors, ATK Chief Financial Officer John Shroyer spelled out how much Aresâ€™ cancellation would cost ATK â€” some $650 million would be removed from the companyâ€™s backlog â€” and said Ares and the rest of the Constellation program can only be terminated with congressional approval.
The President’s budget proposal is the first step in a long process that will ultimately require Congressional approval. It is not clear why at this time the nation would consider abandoning a program of such historic promise and capability – with so much invested. We anticipate additional detail on the budget proposal’s impact on the nation’s space policy to unfold in the coming weeks as the Congress and industry are provided an opportunity to review these recommendations. Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle have expressed their concern over this apparent change in policy direction. NASA and its industry partners have made significant progress in Constellation’s development, culminating in the successful Ares 1-X test flight. Ares is meeting all major milestones. The Ares I launch vehicle is an innovative and now proven design with an overriding concern for crew safety. It is 10 times safer than any launch vehicle in existence or on the drawing board. NASA’s own Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel recently concluded that “The Ares I vehicle has been designed from the beginning with a clear emphasis on safety. To abandon Ares I as a baseline vehicle for an alternative without demonstrated capability nor proven superiority (or even equivalence) is unwise and probably not cost-effective.” In the weeks and months ahead we are hopeful that the Congress and Administration will work together to deliver a budget that supports a program that capitalizes on the investments the nation has made in the Constellation program, closes the gap in US capability to return to space, and best assures continued US leadership in space. We believe ATK will continue to play a significant role in America’s future space exploration.
Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK – News) has delivered a technological first to NASA: a full-scale, crew module structure made of composite materials. The Composite Crew Module (CCM) is a unique capsule design that has the potential to reduce the overall weight of future manned launch vehicles.
Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK – News), broke ground yesterday on a 25,000 square foot expansion of the company’s facility in Goleta, California. The expanded operations will support NASA’s human space flight program, as well as global weather satellites and possible future spacecraft missions.
ATK lays off 550 Utah employees The Salt Lake Tribune
ATK laid off 550 of its employees, including 400 at its nearby plant. The pink slips didn’t come as a surprise — the company had announced in July layoffs were coming — but they were painful nonetheless.
Michael Bloomfield, vice president and program manager for Constellation systems at ATK Space Systems, makes the company’s case for continuing the Ares program on safety grounds:
Ares I was designed from the start with crew safety and mission reliability as key requirements. Multiple studies show that goal was achieved, with Ares I consistently rated tops for safety against any other option by a significant degree. This is no accident. A reduced part count combined with heritage human-space-flight hardware increases crew safety and decreases developmental and programmatic risk. Increased crew safety and mission reliability have the added benefit of reducing overall life-cycle costs. Expenses associated with a reliable human transport are less than for one that suffers intermittent catastrophic failures. That, in turn, facilitates commercialization of human low-Earth orbit transport. This is a rare win-win-win solution.
Ares concerns: If program is scrapped, hundreds of Top of Utah jobs may be lost Standard Examiner
NASA’s next moon rocket, the Ares I, is scheduled to get its first launch pad test next month in Florida. But there are unanswered questions still hanging in the fall air regarding any U.S. space program that includes a future with the Utah-built Ares I rocket motor.
The answers to those questions could mean the survivability of at least 700 Utah jobs for ATK Space Systems, a company with three Utah locations.