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News

ATK - Propulsion Systems for Phoenix Mars Lander


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ATK
: 07 August, 2007  (Company News)
ATK Composite and Propulsion Technologies Help Launch NASA's Phoenix Mars Lander
Alliant Techsystems composite and propulsion technologies supported the successful launch of the Delta II Rocket carrying NASA's Phoenix Mars lander spacecraft. The Phoenix Mars lander spacecraft is the first of NASA's Scout missions. The Phoenix is designed to analyze the ice and soil samples retrieved by the robotic arm from the Martian arctic's ice-rich soil.

ATK's UltraFlex solar arrays, a unique technology developed by the company's Goleta, CA facility, will deploy for the first time in space to provide power for the Phoenix lander. The pair of UltraFlex wings will deploy unassisted and unfold like individual fans into circular shapes 2.1 meters in diameter. Each solar array is capable of generating 770 watts from sunlight and was selected for its low mass and stowed volume characteristics.

ATK also provided its CoilABLE boom to deploy the Surface Stereo Imager camera on the Phoenix. This coiled boom structure will lift the camera payload, weighing about 4 times its weight, to a height of 27 inches above the lander deck. The boom design shares heritage with the one used on the Mars Pathfinder lander in 1997.

Phoenix was launched by a United Launch Alliance Delta II vehicle. Nine GEM-40 solid propulsion strap-on boosters, manufactured in ATK's Salt Lake City, Utah facility provided augmented thrust for the launch. ATK's Clearfield, Utah facility produced the composite cases for the GEM-40 boosters using an automated filament winding process. Six of the boosters ignited at lift-off with the first-stage main engine and provided over 850,000 pound maximum thrust for the launch vehicle. Just over one minute later, the remaining three boosters ignited to provide an additional 450,000 pound maximum thrust. The spent motors were jettisoned from the Rocket as it continued its ascent.

Following burnout and separation of the GEM-40 boosters and the rocket's liquid second stage, an ATK-produced STARô 48B third-stage Rocket motor fired at approximately 82 minutes into flight to provide the Earth-escape velocity required to send the Phoenix spacecraft on its way to Mars.
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