Space

July 19, 2012

NASA partner United Launch Alliance completes two Atlas V reviews

NASA partner United Launch Alliance has completed a review of its Atlas V rocket to assess its compliance with NASA human spaceflight safety and performance requirements.

ULA has partnered to launch Boeing’s CST-100, Sierra Nevada’s Dream Chaser and Blue Origin’s Space Vehicle on missions to low Earth orbit and the International Space Station. NASA provided technical consultation during the ULA review.

ULA is one of several companies working to develop crew transportation capabilities under the Commercial Crew Development Round 2 (CCDev2) agreement with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Through CCDev2, NASA is helping the private sector develop and test new spacecraft and rockets with the goal of making commercial human spaceflight services available to commercial and government customers.

The Atlas V has launched numerous satellites and robotic missions into space for NASA, including the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover and the Juno probe to Jupiter. Requirements to launch humans will require more stringent criteria, so the company has to show its rocket can meet the extra demands.

“Our partnership with ULA during this round of development has really been focused on understanding the core design of the launch vehicle,” said CCP Program Manager Ed Mango. “In these reviews we were able to see how ULA plans to modify the vehicle for human spaceflight.”

Among adjustments required to evolve the Atlas V for human spaceflight, designers would have to modify the launch pad so crew members can board the spacecraft. The upper stage of a crewed Atlas V would require the use of two Centaur engines, stronger than the current Atlas V upper stage that uses a single engine. The onboard flight computers would be programmed to guide the rocket on a more managed path through the sky into orbit. Sensors also would be added to the rocket to detect emergency situations for the crew.

“The systems requirements review was the result of an extensive effort with NASA and our commercial spacecraft partners to determine what capabilities the Atlas V already meets and to define what we need to do from here to certify the rocket for human spaceflight,” said George Sowers, ULA’s vice president for human launch services. “We continue to receive valuable insight from NASA’s human spaceflight experts as we move toward the certification of Atlas V for human spaceflight.”

All of NASA’s industry partners, including ULA, continue to meet their established milestones in developing commercial crew transportation capabilities under CCDev2.




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