ATK announces Liberty manned rocket for NASA
Liberty rocket on mobile launch platform
Alliant Techsystems (ATK) has announced the completion of the Liberty commercial crew spacecraft transportation system.
Utah-based ATK said the system, including the spacecraft, abort system, launch vehicle, and ground and mission operations, could conduct its first test flight in 2014 and its first manned mission to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2015.
"Our goal in providing Liberty is to build the safest and most robust system that provides the shortest time to operation using tested and proven human-rated components," said Kent Rominger, vice president and program manager for Liberty.
"Liberty will give the U.S. a new launch capability with a robust business case and a schedule that we expect will have us flying crews in just three years, ending our dependence on Russia."
Lockheed Martin will provide support to the ATK and Astrium Liberty team as a major subcontractor on the project.
The current schedule will support crewed missions for NASA and other potential customers by 2016, with a price-per-seat that is projected to be lower than the cost on the Russian Soyuz rocket.
"Liberty will enable a successful commercial space program and result in a globally competitive capability that America doesn't have today," said Rominger.
ATK said that Liberty will bring together flight-proven elements designed from inception to meet NASA's human-rating requirement, reducing development time and costs, and providing known, reliable and safe systems.
The configuration of a solid first stage and liquid second stage will lower the likelihood of failure and enables a flight path with total abort coverage, maximizing survival for the crew in the unlikely event of an anomaly requiring an abort.
ATK added that the Liberty spacecraft leverages design work performed at NASA Langley Research Center on the composite crew module and launch abort system, for which ATK was a contractor.
Liberty also builds upon processes from existing ATK, Astrium and Lockheed Martin commercial programs.
ATK's commercial programs include solid rocket motors for various launch vehicles, system integration and composite technology (for crew module, Delta IV, Atlas V and A350 Airbus composite structures) and other commercial products.
Astrium builds the Ariane 5, which launches the majority of the world's commercial satellites, while Lockheed Martin commercial programs include satellites, the Atlas V and Athena launch vehicles.
"Combining Lockheed Martin's and ATK's decades of human spaceflight experience to create the Liberty space vehicle will help ensure America's crew access to the International Space Station – sooner rather than later," said Scott Norris, Lockheed Martin Lead, Liberty Program.
"We look forward to our role supporting Liberty as it delivers on a highly-effective cost solution for NASA crew and for commercial missions."
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