ATK Engineering, Fabrication, and Testing Supports NASA’s Kepler Satellite

Kepler Satellite Designed to Count Earth-Like Planets in Our Region of Milky Way Galaxy

Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) played a key role in the successful launch of United Launch Alliance’s Delta II rocket today from Space Launch Complex 17B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., carrying the Kepler satellite for NASA. ATK’s contributions included propulsion systems, composite materials, and spacecraft technologies.

Nine ATK GEM-40 solid propulsion strap-on boosters provided augmented thrust for the launch. Six of the boosters ignited at lift-off with the first-stage main engine and provided over 824,000 pounds maximum thrust for the launch vehicle. Just over one minute later, the remaining three boosters ignited to provide an additional 427,000 pounds maximum thrust. The spent motors were then jettisoned from the rocket as it continued its ascent.

ATK manufactured the GEM-40 motors at its facility in Magna, Utah, continuing a tradition of flight support for Delta II missions that began in 1990. The composite cases for the GEM-40 boosters were produced at ATK’s Clearfield, Utah, facility and are made of graphite epoxy material using an automated filament winding process the company developed and refined through its 40-year heritage in composite manufacturing. ATK also supplied the 10-foot diameter composite payload fairing, encapsulating the third stage, which includes the payload. The fairing was produced using advanced hand layup manufacturing techniques at the company’s facility in Iuka, Miss.

Following burnout and separation of the GEM-40 boosters, approximately one hour and five minutes into the flight, an ATK-produced STAR(TM) 48B rocket motor, acting as the Delta II third stage, fired for an 85-second burn, sending the Kepler spacecraft into its final orbit. This mission marks the 100th successful flight for the STAR 48B and the 2,441st successful flight of the STAR family of motors. The STAR motors have been produced at ATK’s Elkton, Maryland facility since 1965 and paly an integral role in the exploration and commercialization of space.

ATK also provided concurrent engineering, fabrication, and testing for Kepler’s telescope payload and bus structures. Kepler’s photometer structures – including the sunshade, upper housing, lower housing, and Schmidt corrector ring structures – were fabricated at ATK’s Magna, Utah facility under contract to Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp., of Boulder Colorado. ATK also fabricated the solar array substrates and structural assembly.

The Kepler mission, the 10th NASA Discovery mission, is designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.

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