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Rocket launch includes key parts from Utah's ATK sites

Published April 4, 2012 6:33 pm

Payloads • Mission carries defense satellite into space.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

ATK facilities in Utah played a manufacturing role in this week's launch of a Delta IV rocket carrying a national defense satellite from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The rocket was provided by United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Atlas and Delta teams formed in 2006 to provide the U.S. government with cost-efficient and reliable access to space.

ATK produced the two graphite epoxy motors, known as GEMs. The 70-foot-long, 60-inch-diameter motors ignited at lift-off Tuesday, burned for 90 seconds and delivered 560,000 pounds of thrust to propel the national defense payload into orbit.

The ATK facility in Promontory manufactures the heat-resistant nozzle for the rocket's first-stage hydrogen-powered engine. External temperatures at launch can exceed 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

ATK supplied a total of nine composite structures for the launch vehicle, some as large as 5 meters in diameter and 1 to 15 meters in length. Hardware for those structures came from ATK's Clearfield facility.

The rocket's payload is part of a National Reconnaissance Office mission, the first of five such launches over the next four months, according to United Launch Alliance. The NRO is the agency tasked with producing and maintaining the nation's intelligence satellites.

In a statement, Jim Sponnick, ULA's vice president over mission operations, said the rocket will deliver "critical capabilities to the men and women defending our freedom throughout the world."

In addition to Utah's ATK sites, the aerospace, defense, and commercial products company operates facilities in 21 other states, Puerto Rico, and internationally.