Press Release

ATK Announces Independent Assessment Team for Liberty

By SpaceRef Editor
July 2, 2012
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ATK Announces Independent Assessment Team for Liberty

ATK (ATK) and the Liberty program announced an independent assessment team and their first tasking to advise the company on development of its commercial human certification plan for the Liberty system, which includes the launch vehicle, upper stage, abort system, composite spacecraft, ground and mission operations, crew and passenger training and a test flight crew.

The FAA is authorized by Congress to regulate commercial human spaceflight. Over the next few years, the FAA will use a phased approach to regulating the crew and passenger safety of the emerging commercial human spaceflight industry. In the meantime, and in the absence of specific government human certification standards, the developers themselves must look to NASA and International Partner human spaceflight best practices and lessons learned to develop their own design and operations criteria. Developing the Liberty-specific commercial human certification plan early in the program ensures the system will be designed from the outset to ensure flight crew and passenger safety.

Liberty’s independent assessment team is led by Bryan O’Connor with team members Ken Bowersox, Kevin Leclaire and Alain Souchier. This team brings former space shuttle and International Space Station (ISS) commanders together with experts in NASA Safety and Mission Assurance, commercial space business and cryogenic engine development.

“As we build Liberty using streamlined and affordable commercial approaches, we intend to maintain a steady emphasis on crew safety, which is why we brought together top talent for the Liberty independent assessment team,” said Kent Rominger, ATK vice president and program manager for Liberty. “We have one of the best teams whose background and expertise will ensure Liberty is safe and reliable for our commercial customers.”

Leading the Liberty independent assessment team, O’Connor brings a strong background in flight test, program management, safety and mission assurance (SM&A). As a former two-time shuttle astronaut and United States Marine Corps test pilot he has served in various high-profile positions over his career including assistant program manager for the Marine AV-8 Harrier and NASA Space Shuttle Programs, NASA’s first chairman of the Space Flight Safety Panel that was established to support return-to-flight design re-certification. During O’Connor’s tenure at NASA Headquarters he served as director of the Space Station Redesign Team, Space Shuttle Program director, and later as the chief of Safety and Mission Assurance where he was responsible for the safety, reliability, maintainability and quality assurance of all NASA programs.

“I am looking forward to working with ATK on their commercial human certification plan for Liberty,” said O’Connor. “It is extremely important to get this plan right. Fortunately, they have a head start because all of Liberty’s subsystems were originally designed to be human-rated.”

Bowersox is also a former navy test pilot and shuttle astronaut with four shuttle missions and one ISS mission, which included Russia Soyuz training and a return via the Soyuz capsule. He served as the Expedition-6 crew commander for over five months aboard the International Space Station. During his tenure at NASA he held a variety of assignments, notably chief of the Astronaut Office Safety Branch and chairman of the Spaceflight Safety Panel. Bowersox will oversee crew training and the commercial human certification plan for the Liberty program.

Leclaire brings extensive experience in starting and developing space-related companies. He has provided management consulting services to clients involved in the space, satellite and technology sectors and was previously a senior associate at the preeminent venture capital firm that focused on space-related companies. Leclaire will oversee the business aspects of the Liberty program with a focus on ensuring a solid business case without compromising crew safety.

Souchier was the program manager for the design of the stage propulsion systems on the Ariane 5 central core, the technical manager over the engineering department that developed the Vulcain Ariane 5 cryogenic engine and the stage associated propulsion systems, and Snecma’s future programs director. During his 30-year career, he has been honored with a bronze and silver medal from the French space agency (CNET). Souchier will ensure all aspects of the Vulcain 2 engine upgrades for air start will be effectively implemented.

About Liberty

Liberty is a complete commercial crew transportation system that includes a composite spacecraft, abort system, launch vehicle and ground and mission operations, which were all designed from inception to meet NASA’s human-rating requirements. ATK is the prime with Astrium and Lockheed Martin serving as major subcomponent providers. Additional subcontractors for Liberty include Safran/Snecma; Moog Inc., Honeywell, Astrotech Space Operations (ASTC), Aerojet, Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Dynamic Concepts, Inc. and Hamilton Sundstrand.

The Liberty system team is located across 10 states including Alabama, California, Florida, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, Ohio, Texas, Utah and Virginia. The commercial program will sustain thousands of jobs as well as bring approximately 600 new jobs across the country. Unmanned test flights of Liberty are scheduled for 2014 and 2015, followed by the first human flights in 2015 with the Liberty flight crew.

SpaceRef staff editor.