AlliantTechsystems (ATK) and the U.S. Air Force successfully test fired for the first time the new Castor 30 upper-stage solid-rocket motor that will be used on the Taurus 2 rocket being developed by Orbital Sciences Corp., according to a Dec. 10 ATK press release.

ATK and the Air Force conducted a 150-second burn in a vacuum chamber at the Arnold Engineering Development Center in Tennessee designed to simulate altitudes of 30,000 meters and above, where the motor will operate. The motor produced a maximum thrust of 72,000 pounds.

ATK designed the Castor 30 with internal research and development funds. Taurus 2, intended to loft an international space station cargo capsule being developed by Orbital, is on track for a first launch in March 2011, Orbital said in a Dec. 10 press release.