ATK makes progress on Liberty launch vehicle development

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The ATK Liberty launch vehicle development effort is making steady progress, completing a software milestone and tests on the second stage fuel tanks.

ATK has completed the software technical interface meeting (TIM), a gathering with NASA to finalise software development plans. The software must act as a bridge between existing software systems that control the ATK-built solid-fuel lower stage, the Astrium-built Vulcain 2 upper stage and ATK's composite-structure space capsule.

"Understanding how your system will work together throughout the mission is critical in reducing risk and schedule delays," says Kent Rominger, ATK vice president and Liberty programme manager. "Holding this TIM provides us valuable insight into expertise provided by the NASA team and ensures there are no issues we are overlooking."

 

 ©ATK

The Liberty is being developed in conjunction with an unfunded NASA space act agreement (SAA) under the second round of commercial crew development (CCDev) grants. The unfunded SAA means that though NASA gives no money to ATK, they will exchange technical information with the company. ATKs' final CCDev milestone is scheduled for completion in July.

Astrium meanwhile has completed a series of tests on the tanks that will hold the cryogenic liquid hydrogen fuel and liquid oxygen oxidizer. The tanks intended for the Liberty are slightly thicker and stiffer than those generally used on the Ariane 5, Europe's main launch vehicle, for which the Vulcain serves as the core stage.