ATK Seeks NASA Contract for Human Spaceflight

Alliant Techsystems is working with a French company on a two-stage launch vehicle that would be able to deliver crews and equipment to the International Space Station.

Eden Prairie-based Alliant Techsystems, Inc. (ATK), hopes to be selected for a NASA-administered program to develop and demonstrate systems for human spaceflight.

The aerospace and defense company said Tuesday that it is working with France-based space systems provider Astrium on a two-stage launch vehicle that will combine two propulsion systems. Called Liberty, the rocket would be able to carry a crew and deliver 44,500 pounds to the International Space Station.

ATK would produce the first stage of the rocket at its facility in Promontory, Utah. Astrium would then provide the second stage, and ATK would do the final assembly at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

ATK and Astrium have planned an initial test flight by the end of 2013 and a second test flight in 2014-and they plan to have operational capability in 2015.

The first stage of the rocket would be derived from rocket boosters already built by ATK; those boosters have flown 107 successful missions since 1988, according to the company.

The space shuttle's last flight will be later this year. The United States will pay Russia $52 million per passenger to transport crews to the International Space Station until a replacement becomes available.

ATK employs about 18,000 people and is among Minnesota's 20-largest public companies based on revenue, which totaled $4.8 billion for the fiscal year that ended in March 2010.