Orbital ATK Pursuing New Solid Fuel Launch Vehicle

orbital_ATK_logoDULLES, Va. — Orbital ATK is working on a next-generation medium- to heavy-lift launch vehicle that it plans to have operational in 2019.

Details of the new booster were revealed last week in a $47 million contract awarded to the company by the U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center Launch Systems Directorate.

The contract funds Orbital ATK for “the development of prototypes of the GEM 63XL strap-on solid rocket motor, the Common Booster Segment (CBS) solid rocket motor, and an Extendable Nozzle for Blue Origin’s BE-3U upper stage engine.”

(more…)

Palazzo Vision: SLS and Orion…Now and Forever More

SLS_on_pad
Continuing our look at the House’s spending plan for NASA, this edition of “Palazzo Vision: $3 Billion is Not Enough” examines provisions that would prevent NASA from ever canceling the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion without prior Congressional approval while immediately freeing up hundreds of millions of dollars more to spend on the two programs.

(more…)

NASA Transition Team Considering Dumping Ares I, Using Military Rockets

Obama Team Considers NASA Use of Modified Military Rockets
Wall Street Journal

“President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, considering ways to reduce the cost and risk associated with manned space exploration, has broached the idea of using modified U.S. military rockets to launch the eventual replacement for the space shuttle.

“No decision has been made and the concept raises major technical, funding and policy issues. But in recent weeks, the transition team assigned to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration has been asking aerospace industry officials about the feasibility of such a dramatic shift in priorities.”

Orion Propulsion Joins Boeing Ares I Team; Companies Sign Mentor Aggreement

ORION PROPULSION PRESS RELEASE

Boeing has announced their Industry Team for the Ares I Crew Launch Vehicle Upper Stage Production bid. Orion Propulsion has been revealed as a team member and will supply reaction control system thruster test equipment, tooling, and test support services. Orion will also provide design, fabrication, and testing expertise. In addition, Orion will be working with Boeing’s mentor-protégé program in order to grow as a supplier to both Boeing and NASA.

Orion’s President, Tim Pickens, says, “We are very excited to be part of the Boeing Ares I Team. I think Boeing has chosen team members that are technically savvy and committed to lean manufacturing. As the president of a small business, I appreciate Boeing’s commitment to using innovative and affordable businesses that are eager to meet NASA’s needs in a responsive manner. I think Boeing will lead a team of suppliers that provides the best lean production solution and the most cost-effective strategy to support NASA’s CLV goals.”

Orion Propulsion is located outside of Huntsville, Alabama. The company recently signed an agreement to provide thrusters for Bigelow Aerospace’s Sundancer space station.

Horowitz Deems Ares I Vibration Problems Fixable; NASA Schedules April 3 Briefing

Shuttle astronaut turned consultant Scott Horowitz says that vibration problems on NASA’s Ares I rocket are easily fixable, Aviation Week reports.

“You can mitigate this throughout the whole vehicle,” Horowitz told AvWeek. “You can do it on the top of the first stage. You can do it on the interstage. You can do it by the orientation of the tanks. When you get up to the [Orion crew exploration vehicle] CEV and the service module, then you can put shock absorbers in the seats.”

Horowitz is a four-time shuttle veteran who is now works as a private consultant for ATK, contractor for the Ares I first stage. He is also advising NASA. Horowitz headed up NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate during the early stages of Ares development.

NASA will provide an update on the findings of the Ares 1 thrust oscillation focus team on Thursday, April 3, at 2:30 p.m. EDT. The teleconference will be broadcast live at http://www.nasa.gov/newsaudio.

The Rocketsandsuch blog has a far gloomier assessment of the thrust problem revolving around the additional weight the fixes would add to the Ares launch vehicle and Orion capsule.

(more…)

NASA Offers Ares I-X Media Opportunity at Glenn, March 13

NASA MEDIA ADVISORY : M08-055

CLEVELAND – Reporters are invited to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland on Thursday, March 13 at 11 a.m. EDT to view a full-scale element of NASA’s Ares I-X rocket. The test launch and flight of the Ares I-X in April 2009 is a critical milestone in the development of NASA’s Constellation Program that will send astronauts back to the moon.

Reporters will be able to see and climb inside the 18-foot wide, 45-foot tall simulation of the Ares I upper stage, which was designed and manufactured at Glenn. The simulated element represents the size, outer shape and mass of the second stage of the Ares I rocket. Media also will receive an update of NASA’s Ares I-X Project and a tour of Glenn’s Fabrication Shop.

(more…)

ATK makes progress on Ares I first stage

Alliant Techsystems reports progress on the first stage of NASA’s new Ares I vehicle, according to a story at Flight Global.

ATK has fabricated segments for ground vibration tests and expects to ship hardware to the Kennedy Space Center in July. The five-segment stage, based on the solid rocket boosters used for the space shuttle, will help launch NASA’s new Orion spacecraft.

Ares V Underpowered; NASA Nears Decisions on Altair Lunar Lander

Aviation Week reports that the Ares V rocket isn’t powerful enough to launch a human mission to the moon as currently designed. Ares V’s capacity is about 11-12 tones below the 75.1 metric tons (with margins) that it needs to launch into trans-lunar injection. It is several tons short without margins.

“The payload requirements are very driving and very difficult to get to, and frankly our vehicle today is close but doesn’t quite meet those mission requirements,” said Phil Sumrall, advanced planning manager in the Exploration Launch Projects Office at Marshall Space Flight Center.

Current plans are for the Ares V to launch the Altair lunar lander, followed by the liftoff of the smaller Ares I with a four-member crew in the Orion spacecraft. The crew would spent four days in low Earth orbit before heading off to the moon.

NASA is working to boost the Ares V’s capacity as well as shaving about three tons off the Altair lander. In another article, Aviation Week reports the space agency has an in-house design team working on a rough concept for Altair. The team will be joined by some industry partners which will help develop a “minimal functional” design.

For more detailed information about the Altair design process, you can also check out this NASASpaceFlight.com article.