Alliant Techsystems (ATK) has unveiled its ALV two-stage, solid fuel-propelled suborbital launch vehicle, which will have its inaugural flight, X-1, from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility off Virginia's Atlantic coast next year.

The rocket is aimed at the US Department of Defense's operationally responsive space needs, for which the US Congress last month earmarked an extra $23.5 million for launcher development.

The ALV's X-1 flight will carry two payloads with a combined mass of 909kg (2,000lb). They are a hypersonic boundary layer transition experiment, sponsored by NASA's hypersonics project within that agency's Fundamental Aeronautics programme, and NASA Ames Research Center's suborbital aerodynamic re-entry experiment.

"The inaugural flight will reach 473km [256nm]. In future we will announce the variable payloads ALV will be able to launch, including into orbit," says ATK.

The ALV recently completed a successful on-pad assembly, known as a pathfinder operation. This step towards the X-1 flight is part of ATK's second development phase. Phase three will develop a two or three-stage vehicle capable of putting payloads into low Earth orbit.

© ATK 
 On-pad assembly of ALV completed

Read Rob Coppinger's blog

Source: Flight International