(Sen) - ATK (Alliant Techsystems), the company leading the development of the Liberty spacecraft, has announced plans to expand its crew and cargo capacity.
The Liberty Logistics Module (LLM) will be able to transport over 5 metric tons of cargo and up to seven crew to the International Space Station once construction is complete.
The extended commercial spacecraft will fully utilise the strengths and reliability of the launch vehicle, which is designed to safely place Liberty in low Earth orbit. The LLM will be protected during launch by a lightweight shroud, which will be discarded once the craft is safely beyond the Earth’s atmosphere.
"Liberty's expanded service allows us to bring a commercial capability delivering up to seven crew members, 5,000 pounds of pressurized cargo, along with external cargo in a single flight," said vice president of ATK Kent Rominger. "This results in tremendous value since all other commercial offerings would need two flights to accomplish what Liberty does in one."
The Liberty team are combining 50 years worth of knowledge of human spaceflight along with the latest technologies in order to ensure safety and reliability. Flight-proven hardware and efficient production capabilities are cost-effective measures that will greatly diminish the time between construction and first launch.
Unmanned testing of Liberty will begin in 2014, and Liberty will bring astronauts to the International Space Station for the first time in 2015. Liberty will be fully capable of supporting regular crewed missions for NASA and other customers by 2016.
The primary developer of the Liberty commercial crew system is ATK, who provide the crew module, the launch abort system, and first stage of the rocket. ATK are supported by major subcontractors Astrium and Lockheed Martin. Astrium are responsible for the second stage of the rocket which is powered by the Vulcain 2 engine. Lockheed Martin will provide vital subsystems such as avionics, docking and propulsion systems, and environmental control capabilities.
The Liberty project is creating thousands of jobs across the USA.