NASA’s booster rocket passes test in Utah

NASA’s booster rocket passes test in UtahThe ATK booster, the 150-foot long solid rocket motor which is one of the giant boosters that will power the first stage of flight on the next rocket by NASA, was tested in Utah on Tuesday.

Built by the Utah-based Alliant Techsystems Inc., or ATK, the solid rocket motor is part of NASA's Constellation project; and marks the development of the solid rocket motors used for lifting space shuttles off the launch pad. The booster essentially employs the same principle that was used in the solid rockets of the past - that is, to generate thrust with the help of hot gases expelled by burning of fuel.

The propellant of the ATK booster is a mix of aluminum, ammonium perchlorate, the polybutadiene acrylonitrile polymer, epoxy and iron oxide poured into 12-feet wide cylindrical steel casings.

Noting that the ATK booster could play a notable role in future NASA launch vehicles, the US space agency's Alex Priskos said the data gathered from the recent test was "absolutely excellent," and gave "the chamber pressures and the thrust pressures that we were expecting."

The Tuesday test of the booster measures performance at cooler temperatures - the motor, enclosed in a rollaway building, had been chilled to 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Talking about the appeal of the solid rocket motors, Dr. Douglas Stanley, of the Georgia Institute of Technology, said that these boosters have a high thrust-to-weight ratio, which can provide a big, quick push off the launching pad.