NASA has set 21 August as the first opportunity for Alliant Techsystems (ATK) to launch two NASA payloads on what could be the company's first and last ALV X-1 suborbital booster.

ATK says it is not planning to manufacture the 16m (53ft)-high, two-stage solid-propellant vehicle, but will instead use the experience to further its expertise in the multi-stage rockets, launch services and payload integration. The company originally developed the ALV to compete in NASA's commercial orbital transport services programme. Those contracts were ultimately won by SpaceX and Orbital Sciences.

 © ATK

The booster is expected to loft the hypersonic and research payloads to a 473km (256 miles) altitude and 1,600km downrange of the mid-Atlantic regional spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's eastern shore. One of the four experiments on board is designed to be recovered.

Perched on the ALV X-1 will be NASA Langley's Hybolt experiment, a screwdriver-shaped instrument that will provide data on boundary layer aerodynamics at speeds up to Mach 8 or higher for future aircraft and spacecraft design purposes. Once Hybolt takes its data and is ejected, three probes making up the Soarex experiment will be deployed, two built by NASA's Ames Research Center and one built by the Naval Research Laboratory. The NASA probes will characterise potential new shapes for re-entry vehicles, while the navy experiment will test a GPS-assisted identification and recovery technique.


Source: Flight International