ATK (NYSE: ATK) technologies supported today’s successful launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket carrying a classified satellite (NROL-15) for the National Reconnaissance Office.
ATK designed and produced the nozzle for the Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne (PWR)-built RS-68 first stage engine – the largest hydrogen-powered engine in the world – as well as the nozzle’s thermal protection material, which is capable of shielding it from the extreme heat of launch when external temperatures can exceed 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The nozzle is manufactured at ATK’s Promontory, Utah, facility. The NROL-15 launch represents the first use of the RS-68A engine and nozzle configuration, which provides increased launch capabilities to the Delta IV Heavy vehicle. The RS-68A is a Heavy Upgrade (HUG) version of the RS-68 engine design. PWR and ATK have worked together over the past several years to successfully develop, design and test this upgrade for use on the HUG missions.
ATK supplied 13 key composite structures for the Delta IV launch vehicle including three thermal shields that house and protect the engines during flight, three centerbody structures that connect the liquid oxygen (LO2) and liquid hydrogen (LH2) tanks, two medium and one heavy skirt on the three Common Booster Cores (CBC), the composite interstage on the center CBC, the nose cones on the two strap-on boosters, and one set of x-panel structures that connect the upper stage LOX tank with the upper stage hydrogen tank.
The composite structures range from four to five meters in diameter and up to eight meters in length. They were produced using advanced hand lay-up, machining, and inspection techniques at ATK’s production facility in Iuka, Miss., with additional hardware produced at the Clearfield, Utah facility.
ATK’s Commerce, Calif., facility manufactures the Upper Stage Reaction Control System (RCS) propellant tank assembly, which uses an elastomeric diaphragm to dampen fluid motion and limit the shifting of the propellant’s center of gravity. It is the current industry standard for launch vehicle RCS tank needs in the United States and has been flight-proven on Delta and Atlas launch vehicles; the Space Shuttle fleet; and interplanetary spacecraft including Pioneer, Voyager, and CASSINI.