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Wed, Feb 09, 2011

Liberty Launch Vehicle Initiative Unveiled By ATK, Astrium

Designed for NASA's CCDev-2 Competition, Companies Say Liberty Can Achieve, First Flight by 2013

ATK and Astrium are working together in response to NASA's Commercial Crew Development-2 (CCDev-2) procurement, offering NASA launch services with the Liberty rocket. This new launch vehicle combines two of the world's most reliable propulsion systems, with a collective heritage of nearly 150 successful flights. The companies say the new vehicle has the potential to greatly reduce the expected "Human Space Flight Gap" for the U.S.


Photo Courtesy ATK

ATK would supply the human-rated first stage, which it developed under NASA's Space Exploration Program. The five-segment solid rocket first stage is derived from the Space Shuttle's four-segment solid rocket boosters (SRBs) which are built by ATK and have flown 107 successful missions since 1988 (encompassing 214 SRBs).

Astrium, the developer and manufacturer of the Ariane 5 launcher, working with Snecma (Safran Group), Europe's leading propulsion company, is providing Liberty's second stage based on the liquid-fueled cryogenic core of the Ariane 5 vehicle powered by the Vulcain2 engine. The Ariane 5 Launcher, operated by Arianespace, has flown more than 40 consecutive successful missions over nearly eight years and has launched more commercial satellites than any other launch vehicle in the world during that time. The Ariane 5 enjoys the lowest launch insurance rates in the industry due to an unrivaled safety record in the commercial launch services market.

"This team represents the true sense of international partnership in that we looked across borders to find the best for our customers," said Blake Larson, President of ATK Aerospace Systems Group. "Together we combine unique flight-proven systems and commercial experience that allows us to offer the market's most capable launch vehicle along with flexibility to meet a wide variety of emerging needs. Liberty provides greater performance at less cost than any other comparable launch vehicle."


Image Courtesy ATK

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 advantages of the Liberty launch system are extensive. It is built on a solid foundation of human-rated launch technology, and leverages billions of dollars of investments by NASA and NATO-allied European Governments in the frame of the European Space Agency. This international effort—which embodies the spirit of global cooperation articulated in the recent National Space Policy—will afford NASA a readily available, cost-effective solution for human spaceflight. Finally, NASA is already extremely familiar with the Ariane and ATK launch systems, both of which have played historic roles in directly supporting NASA's mission.

The five-segment first stage design is based on more than 30 years of safety-driven improvements on the space shuttle program. The result is a higher performing, more reliable solid rocket motor, which equates to increased safety for crew and mission success for cargo. Besides adding a fifth segment, ATK also enhanced the propellant grain, provided a larger nozzle opening, and upgraded the liner and insulation — all designed to meet performance requirements and increase reliability while significantly lowering manufacturing costs.

The five-segment first stage was successfully ground tested twice (September 2009 and August 2010), and the successful Ares I-X flight test in October 2009 demonstrated vehicle proof of concept, and vital flight performance of a launch vehicle configuration very comparable to Liberty. It also demonstrated effective vehicle integration, ground processing and launch operations.

Other Liberty team members include: United Space Alliance (USA) of Houston, Texas and Kennedy Space Center, Fla. for launch vehicle integration and ground operations support, and L-3 Communications of Cincinnati, Ohio for first stage avionics.

FMI: www.atk.com

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