Over 250 ATK Solid Rocket Motors Powered Shuttle Launches
ATK Looks to the Future with the Five Segment Solid Rocket Booster
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, July 8, 2011 - An unprecedented crowd of over one million witnessed the Shuttle program's final liftoff today from the Kennedy Space Center. Space Shuttle Atlantis had a picture perfect launch at 11:26 a.m. EDT boosted by ATK's (NYSE: ATK) Reusable Solid Rocket Motors (RSRMs). This launch culminates a remarkable, three-decade-long program and marks the beginning of a noble legacy in space exploration.
"As we watched Atlantis lift off for the final time today it was a bittersweet moment for ATK, as well as a tremendous moment of pride," said Blake Larson, ATK Aerospace Systems Group president. "I want to express my gratitude to the ATK workforce, our subcontractors, and the NASA family for their dedication and passion to ensuring this program's success through the final flight."
As a tribute to the final launch, a case from STS-1 was launched on this flight on the left booster. The recovery and reuse of boosters after each flight enables NASA and ATK to collect vital post-flight information and performance data, confirming a safe and robust design. The cases used for today's launch have collectively flown on 59 previous shuttle missions and have been used in 12 ground tests.
Since the inaugural flight of the space shuttle, 270 space shuttle solid rocket motors have been launched and 55 full-scale ground tests performed, enabling ATK and NASA to continually improve safety, techniques and processes.
"Analyzing post-flight and test data allows us to truly understand booster operation and make minor modifications along the way, providing the most reliable solid rocket motor," said Larson. "We can use the knowledge gained from that process as we move forward with the next launch system for America."
The 149-foot-tall solid rocket boosters each produced more than 15 million horsepower, safely launching the shuttle to approximately 28 miles in altitude in just over two minutes. After the flight, the RSRMs were jettisoned from the orbiter and external tank by ATK's 16 Booster Separation Motors (BSMs). Each booster has eight BSMs: four on the forward skirt and four on the aft skirt. The separation motors propelled the RSRMs to a safe distance from the shuttle orbiter, enabling the spent boosters to parachute through the Earth's atmosphere and splash down in the ocean for recovery.
In addition, ATK supplied the titanium hydrazine propellant tanks for the space shuttle Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Three APU tanks house the hydrazine fuel that generates power for the shuttle's hydraulic system. These tanks have performed perfectly over the shuttle's three decades of operations.
On its 12-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Atlantis will carry the Robotic Refueling Mission (RRM) that will demonstrate the technology and tools to robotically refuel satellites in orbit. Under contract to Goddard Space Flight Center, ATK engineers designed and built the tools for the project which will even enable the refueling of satellites that were not designed to be serviced in orbit. The four unique RRM tools will enable the remote controlled robot to cut and manipulate protective blankets and wires, unscrew caps and access valves, transfer fluid and leave a new cap in place for future refueling activities. The robotic refueling has the potential to extend the life of a satellite and result in significant savings for satellite owners and operators.
While continuing to safely fly the space shuttle, ATK is furthering the development of its upgraded five-segment solid rocket motor. ATK is preparing to ground test the third full-scale Development Motor (DM-3) and to complete a 90 percent Design Review this year.
"I flew Atlantis twice, so watching today's launch was even more meaningful, knowing it was her last and that it marks the end of a great era," said Charlie Precourt, ATK vice president and general manager, Space Launch Systems, and four-time shuttle astronaut. "As we move to the next period in human space exploration, we are able to leverage the knowledge and hardware from the shuttle program combined with upgraded materials to provide a higher-performing, cost effective, and even more reliable solid rocket booster to support NASA's heavy lift vehicle."
Modifications to the motor include an added fifth segment, changes to the propellant grain, a larger nozzle opening, and an upgraded liner and insulation material--all designed to meet performance requirements and increase reliability while lowering manufacturing costs.
"As I look forward to what the future holds for the next generation, I want to also salute the thousands of men and women who gave their time, skills and passion to this incredible program," said Precourt. "America owes you all a deep debt of gratitude for your personal sacrifices, for accomplishing the seemingly impossible to complete the mission, and making us the world's leader in space."
ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with operations in 22 states, Puerto Rico, and internationally, and revenues of approximately $4.8 billion. News and information can be found on the Internet at www.atk.com.
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