PROMONTORY, Utah, June 28, 2016 (Gephardt Daily) Legions of workers at Orbital ATK are basking in the glow of a spectacularly successful rocket booster test – one which could have major implications, not only for future of manned space travel – but also for future jobs in Northern Utah.
The giant rocket booster thundered to life for a full two-minutes Tuesday morning at the Orbital ATK test facility outside Promontory, Utah. It’s considered a key component of NASA’s new Space Launch System, designed to do the heavy-lifting as American astronauts begin deep space exploration with a possible trips to Mars.
“Today’s test is the pinnacle of years of hard work by the NASA team, Orbital ATK and commercial partners across the country,” said John Honeycutt, SLS Program manager at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. “SLS hardware is currently in production for every part of the rocket. NASA also is making progress every day on Orion and the ground systems to support a launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. We’re on track to launch SLS on its first flight test with Orion and pave the way for a human presence in deep space.”
NASA says the booster was tested to see how it would perform at “a cold motor conditioning target of 40 degrees Fahrenheit – the colder end of its accepted propellant temperature range.” Preliminary tests results show once the ‘candle was lit,’ the booster performed flawlessly, even though temperatures inside reached close to 6,000 degrees.
The rocket booster’s performance was tested at another temperature extreme during its first full-scale booster qualification ground test in March 2015. NASA says the test firing in 90 degree weather did not significantly impact the rocket booster’s performance.
The return of rocket booster testing at the Promontory test site is a bitter-sweet experience for thousands of families in Northern Utah, many of whom saw high-paying, high-tech jobs evaporate when the space shuttle program was phased out and privatization of the space program phased in.
More than 2,000 employees have been laid off or accepted severance package since the shuttle program’s demise and new belt-tightening measures remain a concern.
Orbital ATK is headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, and employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S.
In addition to its work in aerospace, the company sells defense systems worldwide. Its main product lines include missile products, precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition.