NASA to help ATK develop its Liberty space launch vehicle

ATK and NASA are to work together during the development of ATK’s commercial Liberty Launch System.

The team signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement (SAA) that will see NASA provide technical advice to the Liberty programme office during the Preliminary Design Review phase of the programme.

‘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 programme manager for Liberty.

According to NASA, the launch vehicle combines two of the world’s most reliable propulsion systems. ATK is providing the human-rated five-segment solid rocket motor as the first stage and Astrium is providing the core stage from the Ariane 5 rocket, including the Vulcain 2 engine as Liberty’s upper stage.

The Liberty Launch System programme has been underway for more than a year following the approval of international technical exchange agreements. Since that time, the team has conducted a System Requirements Review and a System Development Review and continues to work towards a Preliminary Design Review.

The current goal is to have a test launch in 2014, with a crewed flight on the vehicle’s third flight in 2015.

In operation, Liberty will have the ability to launch 44,500lb to the International Space Station orbit and so carry any crew vehicle in development.