Orbital ATK successfully tests first motor case for Next Generation Launch Vehicle
Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia, successfully reached another milestone last week in its development of an advanced solid rocket engine program to be used in intermediate- and large-class launch vehicles.
The successful structural acceptance test on the first motor high-strength composite case, which was carried out on October 27, 2017, is part of the company’s Next Generation Launch Vehicle, or NGL, system which is in the early stages of production.
“NGL is one of Orbital ATK’s top growth initiatives,” Scott Lehr, president of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group, said in a press release by the company. “This milestone clearly shows the progress being made by the hundreds of engineers and technicians in Utah and Arizona who are developing the NGL system.”
This test of the applied structural loads pushed the motor’s operating pressure to beyond 110 percent of what is expected, as well as reaching greater than 110 percent of the operational/flight and pre-launch compressive/tensile line loads.
The next step for this full-scale segment of the motor case will be to cast it with inert solid rocket propellant. This is expected to occur sometime in early 2018, at which point it will be shipped to the launch site for check-out of ground operations.
Orbital ATK plans to have NGL share common technology such as structures, propulsion, and avionics that are included in its other space launch vehicles including its missile defense interceptors, targeting vehicles, and strategic missile systems, which is expected to reduce costs and increase the reliability of the overall system components.
“By sharing a skilled workforce, facilities and subsystems across multiple programs, we’ve designed NGL to be affordable and reliable,” said Lehr. “For example, NGL uses common avionics that have flown on more than 100 missions with 100 percent success.”
The expectation is that once the NGL system is completed, it will allow Orbital ATK to be able to launch a full range of payloads including national security, science, and commercial satellites that its current Pegasus, Minotaur, and Antares space launch vehicles are not capable of supporting due to the mass or size of the payload.
The next phase of NGL is expected to begin after the Launch Services Agreement awards are announced by the U.S. Air Force sometime in mid-2018. At that point, full development of the vehicle and launch site would then take place with work being done at Orbital ATK’s various facilities located across the country including in Promontory and Magna, Utah, Iuka, Mississippi, Chandler, Arizona, Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
A native of the Greater Los Angeles area, Ocean McIntyre's writing is focused primarily on science (STEM and STEAM) education and public outreach. McIntyre is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador as well as holding memberships with The Planetary Society, Los Angeles Astronomical Society, and is a founding member of SafePlaceForSpace.org. McIntyre is currently studying astrophysics and planetary science with additional interests in astrobiology, cosmology and directed energy propulsion technology. With SpaceFlight Insider seeking to expand the amount of science articles it produces, McIntyre was a welcomed addition to our growing team.