Lockheed Martin and Alliant Techsystems have announced a partnership for providing from 2012 a new ‘C’ version of the Athena rocket using ATK’s Castor 30 solid rocket motor and new electronics. Its low Earth orbit payload capability is about 1,700kg (3,700lb) making it similar to Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 1e and its 1,010kg to LEO ability. Interestingly the Lockheed official qouted in the release is human spaceflight vice president John Karas – a hint at partnerships yet to come? NASA administrator Charles Bolden has said that the extra $300 million odd in the fiscal year 2011 budget request for the agency’s Commercial Orbtial Transportation Services (COTS) programme is for recompeting COTS to allow other potential providers to join the commercial programme
Athena Launch Vehicles
Athena to fill Critical Niche in Affordable Rockets – Available for Launch in 2012
Denver, March 25, 2010 – Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE: LMT) and Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK), have entered into a strategic teaming agreement to offer launch services utilizing upgraded and modernized Athena rockets. These vehicles, based on the flight-proven Athena I and II, are designed to provide reliable access to space for small payloads to a wide range of orbits. Lockheed Martin will provide mission management, payload integration, and launch operations, and ATK will provide integrated vehicle propulsion, launch vehicle structures, booster integration and launch site operations.
The two-stage Athena Ic and three-stage Athena IIc launch vehicles incorporate the new CASTOR® 30 upper stage motor and upgrades to electronic systems. Athena is available for launches beginning in 2012, with a payload lift capability that supports a variety of customer mission requirements including NASA, the Department of Defense and other space markets.
“The Athena launch vehicle family offers low-risk, reliable launch services at an affordable price,” said John Karas, Vice President and General Manager, Human Space Flight, Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. “Athena combines both companies’ heritage and expertise in launch systems, and makes key system upgrades to provide an enhanced product, skill set and performance capabilities to meet market needs.”
Athena can carry payloads up to 3,775 pounds (1,712 kg) to low Earth orbit as well as missions to the moon. Utilizing a large 92-inch diameter payload fairing, the vehicle accommodates a wide range of satellites and missions.
The rockets can be launched from multiple locations including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Kodiak Launch Complex, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and NASA Wallops Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport.
“The new Athena family will fill an industry need for lift capability in this payload range,” said Scott Lehr, Vice President and General Manager, Strategic and Commercial Systems, ATK Aerospace Systems. “There is a growing need for responsive launch capabilities to serve the Department of Defense, NASA and other customer requirements.”
First-generation Athena I and II rockets became operational in 1995 and have flown seven times. Athena II launched the Lunar Prospector to the moon in 1998 and remains the only commercially developed launch vehicle to fly a lunar mission.
These second-generation Athena launch vehicles use the same flight-proven ATK CASTOR 120® for Stage I and Stage II. The modernized launch vehicles benefit from the latest technology of a newly-developed and ground-tested CASTOR® 30 for their upper stage, and Lockheed Martin’s modernized electronic systems. Both solid rocket motors are in production and are being used on other launch vehicles in the industry.
About Lockheed Martin
ATK is a premier aerospace and defense company with more than 18,000 employees in 22 states,