A full-scale version of Alliant Techsystems’ (ATK) solid rocket booster that will be used on NASA’s new heavy-lift booster, the Space Launch System, or “SLS,” is being readied for testing. The center aft segment of ATK’s qualification motor-1 (QM-1) was sent to the site in the deserts of Utah on May 29, where it will be checked out.
At ATK’s Promontory, Utah facility, the center aft section will be combined with other components for the QM-1 test fired, which is slated to occur later this year. ATK and NASA have described the five-segment booster, a derivative of the motors that powered the space shuttle to orbit for more than 30 years, as the most powerful solid rocket booster ever built for flight.
ATK is the prime contractor for the boosters, which have been tapped to loft the first two SLS rockets to orbit. It is planned that later flights will use a new advanced booster currently in development. The winner of NASA’s Advanced Booster Competition should be announced at the end of 2015.
NASA’s SLS is being built to return NASA to the business of crewed deep space exploration. SLS is currently scheduled to conduct its first test flight from the space agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in 2017. A crewed flight is currently planned to take place in 2021.
“The upcoming test of ATK’s 5-segment solid rocket motor is a critical step for the program,” said Fred Brasfield, vice president, Next-Generation Booster. “Not only do we validate the numerous affordability and process changes we have incorporated, but it is the first of two tests to qualify the SLS booster for human-rated flight—a big milestone for the country.”
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