NASA, ATK Agree to Unfunded Space Act Agreement on Liberty Rocket

Press Conference

Ed Mango, Commercial Crew Program manager, NASA

  • Unfunded Space Act agreement with ATK that will run through next spring
  • NASA and ATK will share information on the rocket and human rating requirements and cooperate on an evaluation of the Liberty rocket

Kent Rominger, vice president, Strategy and Business Development, ATK Aerospace:

  • Upper stage has 45 consecutive launches as part of Ariane V
  • Can launch any of the commercial crew vehicles out there to date
  • Amazing how the upper stage matches up with the lower stage
  • In 2010, President Obama approved a new space policy saying we wanted to extend our international cooperation
  • Have a very rigorous design that was designed to lift humans from the start
  • Two commercial companies are taking technology designed to very high standards and creating a commercial rocket

John Schumacher, vice president, Space Programs, EADS North America

  • EADS North America has worked on space shuttle and space station programs over the years
  • Ariane stage has flown 45 times successfully
  • EADS has experience on the commercial side that they bring to the partnership
  • Brings together the best of U.S. and European launch technology


  • Agreements to use as much KSC capability as possible
  • Create 300 jobs initially
  • Need to start from inception to meet human rating standards
  • SRB has been designed for human rating — Ariane V stage was designed to lift the Hermes vehicle (human spaceflight)
  • Ariane V upper stage has redundancies that meet or are very close to meeting the human rating system
  • System is extremely simple — one engine on first stage, one engine on second stage
  • Soyuz/Progress failure — third stage failed — not a problem on Liberty, don’t need a third stage


  • Both systems have flown and flown effectively
  • Need to do analysis on how they integrate together and fly
  • NASA not in the business of integrating rockets and spacecraft
  • Up to ATK to go work with spacecraft providers


  • Jobs will come on incrementally with the majority of them coming within a year from flight
  • SAA runs through March — leveraging this as far as we can — will seek funding under CCDev 3
  • We are ahead of all the spacecraft system — rocket can be ready when spacecraft are

Q. What happens if no money under CCDev 3?


  • Have been working to mature Liberty toward launch
  • Space Act Agreement enables us to leverage all the expertise at NASA to advance the vehicle
  • It gives NASA more insight into Liberty vehicle

Q. When will Liberty fly?


We can fly in 2015 — will be ready when the spacecraft are ready

Q.  Will NASA fund launch vehicles in CCDev 3 round?


  • CCDev 2 funded spacecraft only because it’s the long tent in the pole
  • For CCDev 3, we want the integrated system (spacecraft + rocket)
  • We want a complete system for industry to bring to us and we’ll evaluate them and go from there

Q.  Who are you talking to for spacecraft? All the current CCDev folks are flying on Atlas V and Dragon.


  • We are talking to everyone we can
  • In terms of price for performance, nobody can match Liberty
  • A lot of interest in Liberty
  • Can lift all the spacecraft — goal is to get signed on to launch all the vehicles

Q. How big of a crew can you launch? Would you consider a second launch site like Kourou?


  • We can launch the current crew capacity (up to 7)….could lift larger spacecraft
  • Focused on Florida because of the capabilities there
  • We are looking at all the possible markets for Liberty — can launch crews and cargo

 Q. What work will you be doing under SAA? And would you be paying NASA for any services?


  • Could end up paying NASA for services rendered
  • A lot of data and expertise at NASA that will help as they move to preliminary design review (PDR)


  • NASA can assist with structural, thermal and vibration analysis
  • hardcore engineering capabilities of how you put together two different stages together in a new configuration
  • we can help them evaluate their analysis
  • if ATK/EADS wants NASA to do the analysis, then companies could pay NASA for the work

Q. How does this affect workforce in Utah? What do you need to learn?


  • will stabilize the workforce in Utah
  • although both stages have flown, it has never flown together as part of the same rocket
  • a lot of things to learn that can be moved along with this SAA

Q. Does ATK have an agreement to use shuttle technologies?


  • this agreement is with the commercial crew program — does not cover those elements
  • a separate SAA will be done

Q. How big is the NASA team?


  • A dozen to two dozen people full-time on this project
  • Insight team will be 50 individuals who will not be full-time — be consulted as needed

Q. Has EADS done work on starting Vulcain engine as second stage (air launch)?


  • Work has been going on for about a year now on that issue

Q. Can Liberty launch Orion MPCV?


  • Can lift Orion version to ISS
  • Can lift Orion to beyond Earth orbit with some relatively simple enhancements
  • Not doing those enhancements because they want to get Liberty to market as soon as possible

Q. Is there a business case without NASA and Commercial Crew?

  • there is but it is not as strong
  • strong pull for the satellite world — particularly U.S. government satellite
  • could launch ATV vehicles