Monday, February 22, 2010

Shuttle program’s final launch - ATK, NASA to blaze last rocket motor

Alliant Techsystems and NASA will perform their last rocket test for the Space Shuttle program Thursday, marking the closure of a program that has spanned more than three decades.

The event is scheduled for 11:55 a.m.; a public performance area on Highway 83 about 20 miles west of Corinne will open at 9:30 a.m.

Spectators will obtain to see the horizontal firing of a solid rocket motor — a method that will allow engineers to look at 43 design objectives measured through 258 instruments. The ground test will be conducted to make sure the safe fly-out of the residual four missions of the space shuttle, which is being phased out this year.

A huge group of NASA officials and members of the national media are traveling to ATK’s Promontory location for the historic final test, said ATK spokeswoman Trina Patterson. She added that a number of employees at the aerospace company have worked on the shuttle for their whole careers.

To date, ATK has completed 52 tests for the shuttle. With the shuttle entering retirement, the prospect of America’s human space flight program is up in the air.

President Barack Obama cut funding for the effort in his planned budget for the next fiscal year, though some members of Congress support continuing the allocation.

As a result of the slow-down in contracts, ATK has let go of 970 employees in Utah since October, including 420 in late January. Another few hundred are predictable to be laid off later this year.

The company has been effective on Ares, the replacement for the shuttle, which would be shelved if Obama’s budget plan is adopted, though Patterson said engineers are continuing with the project for now. We’re on schedule and inside budget and we’ll continue to march forward and look forward to the future, she said.

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