KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla -- ATK (NYSE: ATK) and NASA announced a partnership today to work together during the development of ATK's commercial Liberty™ Launch System, an agreement that also supports the 2010 National Space Policy by furthering international partnerships.
The team signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) that enables NASA and the Liberty program office to provide technical interaction for the launch system during the Preliminary Design Review phase of the program.
"This SAA enables us to exchange information with NASA and receive valuable insight as we develop our fixed-price commercial crew vehicle and prepare it for test flight as early as 2014," said Kent Rominger, ATK vice president and program manager for Liberty. "This helps us to ensure that we provide the safest, most reliable, cost-effective and capable launch vehicle for crew transport."
The launch vehicle combines two of the world's most reliable propulsion systems. ATK is the prime, providing the human-rated five-segment solid rocket motor as the first stage, and Astrium (an EADS Company), is providing the core stage from the Ariane 5 rocket, including the Vulcain 2 engine as Liberty's upper stage. Liberty has the capability to lift 44,000 pounds to low-Earth-orbit, the highest pounds to orbit of any other vehicle currently working under commercial agreements.
The Liberty Launch System program has been underway for more than a year following the approval of international technical exchange agreements. Since that time, the team has successfully conducted a System Requirements Review and a System Development Review and continues to work towards a Preliminary Design Review—all efforts that have been supported exclusively by internal funding.
The SAA continues through at least March 2012, and the Liberty team will work with NASA's Commercial Crew Office out of Kennedy Space Center. A total of four milestones will be met under the SAA.
"With this SAA we believe NASA will benefit from gaining insight into the various systems we are developing, and we can benefit from the feedback," said Rominger. "In the end we hope to offer a commercial solution to NASA, the Department of Defense and other commercial human spaceflight programs."
ATK plans to implement a launch system to serve various commercial markets, including crew, cargo, and government satellite markets.
Both of the Liberty propulsion systems were designed for human rating. The five-segment motor is derived from the Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motors and the core stage for the Ariane 5 was originally slated to lift the Hermes Space Plane. The fact that its upper stage was designed to lift a winged vehicle gives Liberty additional capability. The current goal is to have a test launch in 2014, with a crewed flight on the vehicle's third flight in 2015.
"Now that we are working closely with NASA, we will also look for other funding sources to further speed the development of Liberty," said Rominger.
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.
Certain information discussed in this press release constitutes forward-looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although ATK believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that its expectations will be achieved. Forward-looking information is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Among those factors are: the challenges of developing new launch vehicles; changes in governmental spending, budgetary policies and product sourcing strategies; the company's competitive environment; the terms and timing of awards and contracts; and economic conditions. ATK undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information on factors that could impact ATK, and statements contained herein, please refer to ATK's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.