Utah ATK Boosters May Be Used on Next Space Shuttle Generations

Utah ATK Boosters May Be Used on Next Space Shuttle Generations

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The design for the next generation of space shuttles hasn't been determined yet, but ATK is optimistic that the vehicle will continue to use the company's booster rockets.

NASA and Pentagon officials wrote to the White House this month that the design of the space shuttle's replacement will be derived from the parts of the current shuttle.

The letter was provided to The Salt Lake Tribune.

"This is a very positive development for us," ATK spokesman Bryce Hallowell told the newspaper's Washington office.

NASA plans to retire the current space shuttle fleet by 2010 and develop a new vehicle by 2014.

ATK, whose shuttle operations are based in Brigham City, is excited that its solid rocket motors apparently are still going to be a prime component.

"It's very big for Utah in that we'll be the backbone of the launch systems," said Charlie Precourt, a former astronaut and now ATK's vice president of strategy and business development.

ATK has hired five lobbyists -- four of them former astronauts -- to argue for keeping the company in the mix of contractors involved in the next generation of the space vehicle.

While plans so far are preliminary, chances are the new space vehicle will look more like the ones used during the Apollo missions, where the crew is housed above the rocket during launch and returns in a pod that would be parachuted to the ground.

NASA has indicated the pod might land in the West, possibly in Utah or Nevada.

ATK also is bidding to be involved in the construction of a crew escape hatch that would allow astronauts to jettison out of the spacecraft should a problem occur during launch or re-entry.

ATK bought Thiokol Propulsion in 2001, making it the world's largest supplier of solid propellant rocket motors.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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