Thundering ATK rocket booster test a success (video)
Aerospace • New material on motor evaluated ahead of launch in October.
Published: September 7, 2012 12:01AM
Updated: February 5, 2013 02:56PM
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Al Hartmann | The Salt Lake Tribune Alliant Techsystems employees and guests watch the GEM-60 solid rocket motor testing from one-half mile away Thursday, Sept. 6, at ATK's testing facility west of Brigham City. The 60-inch diameter graphite epoxy motor is a commercially provided low-cost propulsion system.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in Promontory Point successfully tested its GEM-60 solid rocket motor for a ground-shaking 90 seconds Thursday. The 10-year-old rocket booster has helped send satellites into space for the likes of NASA and the Department of Defense.

The motor is used to help launch the Delta IV M+ vehicle developed by Centennial, Colo.-based United Launch Alliance. Two of the boosters will be used next on Oct. 4 to launch a global-positioning satellite for the United States Air Force from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Thursday’s test was performed at the company’s aerospace group facility. Here are facts about what the motor and what it does.

What is it • The GEM-60 is a strap-on motor to the Delta IV launch vehicle and can be used in either a two- or four-motor configuration with the main rocket.

When launched, the GEM-60 boosters burn for about 90 seconds, providing an additional 1.2 million pounds of thrust. They then separate from the main rocket and fall back to Earth into the ocean.

Specs • Each booster is 53 feet long, 60 inches in diameter and weighs 73,156 pounds. Its maximum thrust is 281,000 pounds-force (the amount of thrust measured in pounds it pushes), and reaches a temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit when fired.

History • The booster was first used in 2002, and 22 of the rockets have been utilized in about a dozen Delta IV flights. The rocket system has launched satellites for a handful of clients, including the National Weather Service.

The test • Thursday’s test ­— the 14th such ground test for the GEM-60 — was to examine the durability of a new carbonized fiber material made for the nozzle section of the booster. The new material comes from a different supplier and also is easier to process when building the nozzle, said ATK program manager Robert Seirup.

Alliant Techsystems (ATK) in Promontory Point successfully tested its GEM-60 solid rocket motor for a ground-shaking 90 seconds Thursday. The 10-year-old rocket booster has helped send satellites into space for the likes of NASA and the Department of Defense.

The motor is used to help launch the Delta IV M+ vehicle developed by Centennial, Colo.-based United Launch Alliance. Two of the boosters will be used next on Oct. 4 to launch a global-positioning satellite for the United States Air Force from Cape Canaveral in Florida.

Thursday’s test was performed at the company’s aerospace group facility. Here are facts about what the motor and what it does.

What is it • The GEM-60 is a strap-on motor to the Delta IV launch vehicle and can be used in either a two- or four-motor configuration with the main rocket.

When launched, the GEM-60 boosters burn for about 90 seconds, providing an additional 1.2 million pounds of thrust. They then separate from the main rocket and fall back to Earth into the ocean.

Specs • Each booster is 53 feet long, 60 inches in diameter and weighs 73,156 pounds. Its maximum thrust is 281,000 pounds-force (the amount of thrust measured in pounds it pushes), and reaches a temperatures of more than 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit when fired.

History • The booster was first used in 2002, and 22 of the rockets have been utilized in about a dozen Delta IV flights. The rocket system has launched satellites for a handful of clients, including the National Weather Service.

The test • Thursday’s test ­— the 14th such ground test for the GEM-60 — was to examine the durability of a new carbonized fiber material made for the nozzle section of the booster. The new material comes from a different supplier and also is easier to process when building the nozzle, said ATK program manager Robert Seirup.