ATK composites support Atlas V launch

ATK provided composite structures for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle and the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) satellite that launched on Feb. 11.

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ATK (Arlington, Va., USA) reported on Feb. 12 that it provided critical hardware for the United Launch Alliance Atlas V launch vehicle and the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) satellite that launched on Feb. 11 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

LDCM is a collaborative effort between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey to provide a long­-term record of the Earth's landscapes for use in agriculture, education, business, science and government. The data from the Landsat spacecraft constitute the longest record of the Earth's continental surfaces as seen from space.

For the LDCM satellite, ATK led the design, engineering, fabrication and testing of the spacecraft's graphite composite structures from sites located in San Diego, Calif., and Magna, Utah. Among the critical ATK-­provided structures are the Operational Land Imager (OLI) optical and intermediate benches for Ball Aerospace (Boulder, Colo., USA) and the spacecraft sensor platform that supports the OLI and Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS) for the spacecraft integrator, Orbital Sciences Corp. (Gilbert, Ariz., USA). The precision optical structures met or exceeded requirements for thermal distortion, pointing and stiffness while supporting the science sensors that are vital for the spacecraft mission performance.

For the ULA Atlas V rocket, ATK produced the 10-­ft/3.1m-diameter composite heat shield, which provides essential protection for the first stage of the launch vehicle, using advanced fiber placement manufacturing techniques at its Iuka, Miss., USA, and Clearfield, Utah, USA, facilities. In addition, ATK manufactured the Reaction Control System (RCS) propellant tank for the Atlas V rocket at its Commerce, Calif., USA, facility. This is the 36th Atlas V launch using ATK­built composite structures.

Previously, ATK provided the structures for the bus core, solar arrays and the photometer to Ball Aerospace for NASA's Kepler mission, which is searching for habitable planets around other stars. The ATK Magna site is currently providing the backplane, backplane support frame, Integrated Science Instrument Module (ISIM) optical bench, secondary mirror struts and star tracker structures for NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

"We are very pleased to have the opportunity to support NASA's important science missions," said Dave Howell, ATK's Operations director for Space Components in Magna, Utah. "It is gratifying to know how important ATK's hard work in engineering and manufacturing is to our nation's satellite programs."

TenCate Advanced Composites (Morgan Hill, Calif.) and Hexcel Corp. (West Valley City, Utah) provided advanced graphite materials used by ATK in the manufacturing of the LDCM and JWST satellite's graphite composite structures.