Safer Shuttles: Launching Off to New Heights


The Salt Lake Astronomical Society is a nonprofit corporation consisting of about 200 club members who share an interest for astronomy. The society meets once a month at the University of Utah in the Warnock Engineering building.

The meeting originally was going to feature former Astronaut and ATK spokesman Kent Rominger, but he was not able to make it for personal reasons. Rominger plans to reschedule his appearance at a future Salt Lake Astronomical Society meeting.

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Program manager Mike Jacobs for Liberty Manned Spacecraft Program discusses plans for the shuttle program.
This month’s meeting featured Mike Jacobs, ATK program manager for the Liberty Manned Spacecraft Program.

He began with a brief ATK history and overview of Liberty Transportation System.

ATK was formed after Honeywell International Inc.’s decision to get rid of its defense division in 1990.

ATK mainly focused on targeting the defense industry until five years later, when ATK acquired Hercules Inc.’s aerospace division.

Today, ATK has become an international company and has four operating groups: aerospace, armament, missile and security and sporting.

The Liberty Launch System is a new part of an international commercial space transportation business. The Liberty Launch Vehicle is designed to lower the probability of abort.

Liberty’s mission is to have shuttles ready that anyone in the commercial world can use, but of all the factors that go into planning “astronaut safety is priority No. 1,” Jacobs said.

Jacobs talked about ATK’s development plans and spoke of the benefits of ATK’s focus on simple architecture, affordability, mature elements, recognizably global leaders, low risk, mission planning, processing and launching.

“From contract signature to in-orbit delivery, Liberty is committed to serving our customers,” Jacobs said. “We are convinced we have the safest system.”

Currently, Liberty is the only manned spacecraft program to have a partnership with the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Liberty also works with the Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, Jacobs said.

Liberty Transportation System can deliver more crew and cargo mass and volume to the International Space Station than other current commercial providers, Jacobs said.

This year, Jacobs expects to see request proposals for advanced programs.

The next public event for the Salt Lake Astronomical Society will be hosting a public star party on Friday, April 13 from sunset to 11:00 p.m. at the Wheeler Historic Farm on 6351 S 900 E in Salt Lake City.

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