This artist’s concept of the SLS evokes its exciting future of mission to the Moon and Mars. Image Credit: ATK

ATK’s New Contract with NASA: A Step Towards SLS’s Flight

By Amy Teitel

We’re getting closer to seeing NASA’s Space Launch System heavy lift vehicle roll onto the launch pad. On October 9, the space agency awarded contractor Alliant Techsystems (ATK) a $50 million contract to complete engineering development and risk reduction tests on the rocket that will serve as the SLS’s external booster stages.

At the centre of the SLS system is a liquid-fueled core stage modeled off the space shuttle’s big orange external fuel tank. And, like the shuttle, the core stage will be flanked by two solid rocket boosters; later these solid boosters might be replaced by liquid-fueled ones. SLS will eventually scale up from its initial 70-metric-ton lifting capability to an evolved configuration with a 130-metric-ton lifting capability. This bigger version will have enough power and carry enough fuel to send the Orion capsule to deep-space destinations such as Mars.

For thirty years, the shuttle’s reusable external boosters were built and refurbished between launches by the Morton Thiokol Corporation of Utah. In 2001, Thiokol became a part of ATK, which means the contractor has three decades of experience with solid rocket boosters to bring to the SLS program.

Read more: ATK’s New Contract with NASA: A Step Towards SLS’s Flight « AmericaSpace.

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