ATK Liberty joins commercial crew transportation market

ATK has developed Liberty, a complete commercial crew transportation system, including spacecraft, abort systems, launch vehicle and ground and mission operations to meet NASA's human-rating requirements with potential for first test flight in 2014.

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ATK (Los Angeles, Calfi., USA) announced on May 9 that it has developed Liberty, a complete commercial crew transportation system, including spacecraft, abort system, launch vehicle, and ground and mission operations, designed from inception to meet NASA's human-rating requirements with a potential for the first test flight in 2014 and Liberty crewed flight in 2015.
The company also announced Lockheed Martin will provide support to the ATK and Astrium Liberty team as a major subcontractor on the project.

"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," says 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."

"Liberty will enable a successful commercial space program and result in a globally competitive capability that America doesn't have today," said Rominger. "This program is changing the way we do business and can also result in a positive change to government programs."

Liberty's test flights are expected to begin in 2014, with a crewed mission anticipated in late 2015. 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's approach is to 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 simple configuration of a solid first stage and liquid second stage reduces 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. In addition, 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.

"Because Liberty provides a safe and reliable vehicle for the crew, as well as a sustainable business for years to come, it can be a successful commercial business," says Rominger. "Liberty's business case benefits from mature, flight-proven elements that dramatically lower our up-front development costs."

Liberty, if built, will create and sustain thousands of jobs across the United States, including Alabama, California, Colorado, Florida, Maryland, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Virginia. Liberty's performance of 44,500 lb to low-earth orbit enables the system to launch both crew and cargo and also serve non-crewed markets including International Space Station (ISS) cargo up and down mass, commercial space station servicing, U.S. government satellite launch, and future endeavors.

The Liberty spacecraft includes a composite crew module, which ATK built at its Iuka, Miss., USA, facility as part of a NASA risk-reduction program at Langley between 2007 and 2010. As prime contractor, ATK is responsible for the composite crew module, Max Launch Abort System (MLAS), first stage, system integration and ground and mission operations, while Astrium provides the second stage powered by the Vulcain 2 engine and Lockheed Martin provides subsystems and other support.

Liberty has been developed under a CCDEV-2 unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) with the NASA Commercial program office at the Kennedy Space Center. All development to date has been performed on internal funding from ATK and Astrium. Under this SAA, the team has successfully completed four milestones. The next major milestone is a structural test of the second stage tank, to be conducted at Astrium in June.

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