KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., Feb. 24, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- ATK's (NYSE: ATK) Reusable Solid Rocket Motors (RSRM) ignited at 4:53 p.m. EST, launching the Space Shuttle Discovery and its crew on their 11-day mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Since the inaugural flight of the space shuttle, 266 space shuttle solid rocket motors have been launched to date, with 53 full-scale ground tests allowing ATK and NASA to constantly improve safety, techniques and processes.
"As we near the conclusion of the Space Shuttle Program, we reflect on the dedicated workforce that has provided the most reliable, human-rated propulsion system in the world for more than two decades," said Blake Larson, ATK Aerospace Systems Group President. "With the future of human space flight unfolding, it is critical to leverage proven technology to ensure a safe and robust transportation system as we explore outside of Low Earth Orbit."
The 149-foot-tall solid rocket boosters each produced more than 15 million horsepower, safely launching the shuttle to approximately 28 miles in altitude in just over two minutes. After the flight, the RSRMs were jettisoned from the orbiter and external tank by ATK's 16 Booster Separation Motors (BSMs). Each booster has eight BSMs: four on the forward skirt and four on the aft skirt. The separation motors propelled the RSRMs to a safe distance from the shuttle orbiter, enabling the spent boosters to parachute down through the Earth's atmosphere where they splashed down into the ocean for recovery.
In addition, ATK supplied the titanium hydrazine propellant tanks for the space shuttle Auxiliary Power Unit (APU). Three APU tanks house the hydrazine fuel that generates power for the shuttle's hydraulic system. These tanks have performed perfectly for each of the shuttle's three decades of operations.
While continuing to safely fly the space shuttle, ATK is making significant strides in the development of the new five-segment solid rocket motor with the successful test firing of development motor-2, or DM-2, in August.
"The tremendous success we are seeing as we develop this new motor and move toward a Critical Design Review (CDR) in fall of this year is due to the continuous improvements over the life of the Space Shuttle Program," said Charlie Precourt, ATK's vice president and general manager, Space Launch Systems. "The next motor, DM-3 has been cast and we are planning for its test fire prior to CDR."
Modifications to the motor include an added fifth segment, changes to the propellant grain, a larger nozzle opening, and an upgraded liner and insulation — all designed to meet performance requirements and increase reliability while lowering manufacturing costs.
"We were able to incorporate many design changes during the development of the five-segment motor that we identified during the shuttle program but were not able to make given the shuttle vehicle's operations tempo," said Precourt. "We also incorporated materials and streamlined processes that have been flight-proven in our commercial programs."
ATK is an aerospace, defense, and commercial products company with operations in 24 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: 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.