Press Release

ATK Conducts Successful Night Test of Space Shuttle Reusable Solid Rocket Motor

By SpaceRef Editor
November 16, 2006
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Earlier this evening, Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) conducted a test firing of a Reusable Solid Rocket Motor (RSRM). The test had numerous objectives to obtain and validate performance data on upgrades being analyzed for the future. Among them was to collect nighttime imagery data in support of night launches of the Space Shuttle. The test also collected data that will be used to assist NASA in the development of its next-generation crew launch vehicle, the Ares I. Preliminary results from the test indicate that all test objectives were achieved.

The Reusable Solid Rocket Motor generated 2.6 million pounds of average thrust throughout the duration of the test, which lasted approximately two minutes — the same duration the motors fire when launching the Space Shuttle. “ATK and NASA are committed to continued testing in order to ensure the safety of the Shuttle and crew,” said Ron Dittemore, President of ATK Launch Systems. “We are equally committed to a robust test schedule that supports NASA’s development of the new Ares I launch vehicle.”

This was the first night static firing in the RSRM testing program since 1992. The static firings are a critical component of NASA’s safety program. During the static firing, NASA and ATK conducted extensive nighttime imagery tests. Since a night launch poses additional challenges to capturing imagery due to the effects that the bright light from the rocket’s thrust has on the cameras, NASA installed 31 cameras on the test range to ensure that they have sufficient imagery. The data will be used to test various techniques and camera settings for nighttime imagery captured in future launches.

The test was also used to assist in the development of the Ares I roll control system. It measured the amount of vibration, acoustic and roll-torque experienced by the motor during a launch. This information will provide valuable data to help NASA and ATK determine the appropriate size of the roll control system for the Ares I crew launch vehicle.

The new vehicle is an in-line design with the crew capsule and escape tower on top, patterned after the Saturn rockets that helped take the Apollo capsule to the moon. The roll control system is a vital part of Ares I vehicle, keeping it on a stable trajectory during flight.

“This is a great example of the true synergy between the Shuttle program and the Ares project,” Dittemore added. “Thanks to this teamwork, we are able to collect data and perform analysis early in the development stage of Ares I.”

ATK is a $3.4-billion advanced weapon and space systems company employing approximately 15,000 people in 22 states. News and information can be found on the Internet at

SpaceRef staff editor.