Tuesday, February 8, 2011

ATK, Astrium Propose Commercial Rocket

An artist's concept of the Liberty commercial rocket.

Florida Today reports American-based ATK and European-based Astrium will submit a joint proposal for a commercial rocket called Liberty, to be partially funded under NASA's Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program.

The first stage would be an ATK five-segment solid rocket booster, and the second stage would be the core stage of an Ariane 5 rocket.

According to an ATK press release:

Liberty would be a two stage launcher able to deliver 44,500 pounds to the International Space Station orbit, which would give it a launch capability to carry any crew vehicle in development. Both stages were designed for human-rating since inception and would enable unmatched crew safety. Since Liberty uses qualified, proven, and reliable systems, the team has planned an initial flight by the end of 2013, a second test flight in 2014, and operational capability in 2015.

"The Liberty initiative provides tremendous value because it builds on European Ariane 5 launcher heritage, while allowing NASA to leverage the mature first stage," said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of ATK Space Launch Systems. "We will provide unmatched payload performance at a fraction of the cost, and we will launch it from the Kennedy Space Center using facilities that have already been built. This approach allows NASA to utilize the investments that have already been made in our nation's ground infrastructure and propulsion systems for the Space Exploration Program."

The artist's concept issued with the press release appears to show the Liberty on the mobile launcher originally designed for Constellation, rolling the vehicle to Launch Complex 39-B. That's not specifically stated in the press release, other than the above quote from Mr. Precourt stating they would launch from KSC using existing facilities. Most CCDev proposals would appear to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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