Orbital ATK contributed to the successful launch of a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Delta II rocket as it lifted off Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, carrying the first Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS-1) spacecraft.
Orbital ATK’s contributions to the Delta II include nine Graphite Epoxy Motors (GEM 40) and a large composite fairing for the rocket. This event marks the penultimate launch of the Delta II rocket. It is also the last launch to use nine GEM 40 motors.
“As the Delta II program nears its retirement, more than 1,020 GEM 40 strap-on boosters have helped launch 153 Delta II missions,” said Charlie Precourt, Vice President and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Propulsion Systems Division. “We’d be nostalgic if not for the significant progress we’re already making on the new generation GEM 63 motor that will support Atlas V and future launch vehicles.”
The nine GEM 40 motors used today, which is the maximum number for the Delta II design, provided an additional 1.3 million pounds of maximum thrust to boost ULA’s Delta II launch vehicle on its successful mission. Orbital ATK manufactured the motors’ composite cases in Clearfield, Utah, and the motors themselves in Magna, Utah.
In addition to the GEM 40 motors, Orbital ATK manufactured the composite 10-foot diameter payload fairing, which encapsulates and protects the payload, at its facility in Iuka, Mississippi. Orbital ATK also designed and built the launch vehicle’s second stage helium and nitrogen pressurization bottles at its facility in Commerce, California.
For the JPSS-1 spacecraft, Orbital ATK manufactured the diaphragm propellant tank at its Commerce facility. The company also designed and produced heat pipes for two instruments aboard the satellite at its facilities in Beltsville, Maryland.
The Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) is a collaborative venture between NASA and NOAA. It will monitor existing environmental conditions such as temperature, vegetation, snow and ice cover, and ozone. JPSS will also enable forecasters to more accurately predict severe weather patterns and storm systems. JPSS-1 will be renamed NOAA-20 after it successfully reaches orbit. Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group is now designing and building the JPSS-2 spacecraft with options to build JPSS-3 and -4 spacecraft in the future.