September 10, 2011
Utah Firm Successfully Tests Five-Stage Booster
A Utah-based aerospace company successfully completed a two-minute test of a booster rocket Thursday, an event the firm referred to as "an important milestone in further validating the rocket's potential use in heavy lift and commercial launch vehicles," in a Sept. 8 press release.According to Josh Loftin of the Associated Press (AP), the ATK Aerospace Systems' five-stage, 154-foot, 22-million horsepower booster, code-named Development Motor (DM-3), was described by the company's VP of Space Launch Systems, Charlie Precourt, as a success.
The static motor firing of the developmental rocket was conducted for officials from NASA as well as private space-flight companies, Precourt told Loftin, adding that the company was checking to make sure that the that sensors on the rocket worked properly and that newly installed components could withstand extreme heat.
"This test is the third in a critical series of static tests to evolve and confirm the motor configuration while providing applicable technology maturation for next-generation systems," Precourt said in a statement following the trial. "This milestone is another step towards completing our Critical Design Technical Interchange activity this fall."
"The data from these tests, along with information we have collected over the past three decades, confirms this is the most powerful solid rocket motor ever designed. This performance makes the five-segment a great solution for heavy lift launch vehicles," he added.
According to the ATK press release, DM-3 is the "largest human-rated solid rocket motor" in existence today. The five-segment motor of the booster is said to be based on the Space Shuttle's four-segment rockets, though ATK officials state that it has been "upgraded to incorporate modern technologies and materials that were not used on the shuttle booster."
As a result, they say that it produces 30% more power when compared to the shuttle booster, and is less expensive and lighter as well. The five-segment booster, they say, "was designed to maximize astronaut safety while providing the United States with an affordable and reliable launch capability for both crew and cargo missions."
ATK spokesman George Torres told Loftin that NASA has expressed interest in the DM-3 rockets for its "heavy lift" program, which will send astronauts on deep space missions.
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