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ATK Promotes Fast-Build Small Satellites

Satellite Technology

Satellite Technology Feature Article

July 30, 2012

ATK Promotes Fast-Build Small Satellites

By Doug Mohney, Contributing Editor

ATK (News - Alert) has announced its A series of small satellite buses, featuring fast delivery at an affordable price for government and commercial customers.  The new platform is being featured for two on-orbit satellite servicing tasks.

"Our diversified, balanced approach across multiple markets will take best advantage of the increase in microsat missions, continued demand for small, rapidly-developed spacecraft and the game-changing, on-orbit satellite servicing market," said Tom Wilson, vice president and general manager, ATK Space Systems Division. "We intend to build on our 100-percent on-orbit mission success rate by aggressively opening markets for new capabilities across all space sectors - military, intelligence, civil, commercial and international."

The ATK A series line comes in four basic configurations, with uprated configurations available for broader capabilities and flexibility. Customers can also choose to roll in additional redundancies for missions. The ATK A100 is designed for the microsat/nanosat market and for missions that need payloads of less than 15 kilograms and used for NASA's THEMIS and ARTEMIS missions.

Moving upward in mass and capability, the ATK A200 platform is designed for mission payloads of up to 200 kilograms, along with additional power, precision pointing and data throughput. NASA's Earth Observing-1 (E0-1) and Department of Defense's Operationally Responsive Space-1 (ORS-1) satellite are currently operational ATK A200 series satellites, with the successful three year TacSat-3 mission ended in April 2012 being the third mission.

Selected for DARPA's Phoenix on-orbit satellite servicing and repurposing mission, the ATK A500 series is designed for mission payloads of 200 to 500 kilograms with anywhere from 500 to 2,000 watts of average on-orbit power and a design lifetime of up to seven years.  

DARPA's Phoenix demonstration will demonstrate robotic rendezvous and proximity operations and a grapple-and-repair mission. ATK is working with University of Maryland's Space Systems Lab to develop robotic tools and software to enable the reuse of the antenna and other working components of a non-functioning satellite.  Ultimately, DARPA would like to be able to recycle on-orbit satellites to build antenna arrays and other tasks.

At the top of the line, the ATK A700 series bus is the largest in the family with the largest design life and most capacity. It features up to 1,700 of payload mass, up to 3,000 watts of average on-orbit power and has a design life up to 15 years in orbit. The bus serves as the foundation for the ViviSat Mission Extensive Vehicle (MEV), a satellite servicing spacecraft designed to dock with a client satellite and provide alternative attitude control and propulsion for working satellites without onboard fuel.

Interestingly, ATK is quietly promoting its satellites at a time where it has more aggressively promoted its proposed Liberty launch system for use in launching crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).  Clearly, the next step will be for ATK to offer a bundle with its larger satellite buses and the Liberty rocket. Liberty, a combination of an ATK five-segment solid rocket booster proven for NASA as a part of the Ares and Constellation programs and the flight-proven Ariane 5 liquid fueled second stage is designed to put up to 22,000 kilograms into low earth orbit. 

However, Liberty hasn't flown yet. A test flight utilizing Liberty carrying a couple of ATK A700 series satellites into orbit might be just the thing to kill two birds with one stone.

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Edited by Rachel Ramsey

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