ATK has provided the U.S. Air Force an American-made commercial solid rocket solution as a replacement for the RD-180 Russian-made, first-stage engine of United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle.
The development of new technologies has led to innovative design improvement with solid rocket motors, resulting in higher performance and increased reliability and affordability. Over the past seven years, ATK has incorporated those new technologies in the development of six new solid rocket motors – some developed in less than two years.
Solid rocket motors are optimal for first-stage performance as they provide high lift-off thrust, allowing for more payload margin. They also require less ground and launch infrastructure, resulting in fewer launch scrubs.
Due to unmatched reliability, solid propulsion is used in every stage of America's strategic defense arsenal. New solid rocket motor technology has the capability to provide a smooth lift for payloads, which is especially important when launching critical payloads, sensitive satellites and crews.
This technology has resulted in decades of successful launches within the government and commercial industries. ATK has provided more than 1,900 commercial and more than 14,000 government solid rocket motors and integrated stages, all domestically built.
Manufacturing and testing of ATK's solution for the RD-180 replacement will take place within the United States using tooling and infrastructure already in place across the country.
"We recognize and congratulate the Air Force and ULA on their tremendous launch record," said Larson. "We are pleased to offer this solution to provide low-cost assured access for current and future National Security Space launch requirements."