Space Shuttle Booster Making their Own Shuttle ReplacementEveryone seems to be getting into the space game. Alliant Techsystems, more commonly ATK, is developing its own rocket based on its extensive experience making the Space Shuttle’s solid rocket boosters for the shuttle’s entire run. Their new vessel, the Liberty Launch Vehicle, would be capable of lifting more than any active launch vehicle. And they hope to have it active by 2016.
Said Kent Rominger, Vice president of ATK and the program manager for Liberty:
"The goal is to provide a new launch capability for the nation. The vehicle is designed to be very, very simple, and inherently more safe and reliable. We really believe the whole system is designed for success."ATK has been working on Liberty for a few years. The vehicle was entered into NASA’s COTS commerical space contest. It didn’t manage to score any funding, but ATK and NASA did reach an agreement that gave ATK access to NASA personnel and information. Years later, the unfunded partnership yielded the Liberty.
Rocket StatsThe Liberty will be able to take 7 passengers and a significant amount of cargo all the way into orbit. Much of the propulsion is derived from engines designed for the now defunct Constellation program that aimed to get the US back on the moon. The same goes for the crew module: the reason that crewed flight will be capable so soon is because the cabin was originally built in 2010 for the Constellation.
The Liberty will stand 300 feet tall, making it 60 feet shorter than the Saturn V and significantly taller than the Shuttle’s 184 feet. The first stage will be the same as what is used on the Ariane 5 rocket, the ESA’s orbital workhorse.
The Liberty will also be significantly cheaper to launch than most competing technologies. Currently the US spends $63 million per seat to ride into space aboard the Soyuz. No hard numbers were given, but the per-seat cost should be much, much less for the Liberty.
The Liberty is a partnership of Astrium, who makes the Ariane 5, Lockheed Martin, well-known for their aerospace experience, and ATK. Said Scott Norris of Lockheed Martin:
“The infrastructure we put in place that's already there to support testing and production is going to shorten the timeline. All three of our companies have worked together in the past, integrating things and working together. I think we're well poised to meet our schedule, as aggressive as it is, with things we've already paid for in the past."