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Cary Ralston: NASA Uses ATK Rocket Motor, Test Vehicle for Mars Payload Exercise

ATK-logo_EbizNASA used an ATK-built rocket motor and test vehicle for an exercise the agency carried out to evaluate a vehicle the agency wants to use for landing payloads on Mars.

The Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator test at the Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii carried the vehicle from the test range into the atmosphere, ignited the ATK STAR 48B motor and accelerated the craft to speeds up to Mach 3.8, ATK said Tuesday.

“ATK was an integral part of the team for Mars Pathfinder and Mars Exploration Rover, providing propulsion for the Delta II launch vehicle, and retro rockets and gas generators for the entry, descent and landing system used to safely deliver the rovers to the surface of Mars,” said Cary Ralston, vice president and general manager of ATK’s missile products division.

The flight test was developed to represent the low pressure and high-speeds in payloads dropped into Mars’ atmosphere, the company said.

An ATK-made STAR 48B rocket motor served as the base for two technologies produced out of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — an inflatable Kevlar tubing known as the Supersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator; and a gargantuan drag device called the Supersonic Disk Sail parachute.

Both technologies are built to help bushwhack the path to effortless delivery of larger payloads to the surface of Mars.

Two more NASA test vehicles are scheduled for testing in Summer 2015.

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