Astrium and ATK have successfully completed tests on liquid-fuelled tank structures of the second stage of the Liberty commercial launch vehicle, progressing towards production of the launcher.
The tests included load-carrying cryogenic tanks and confirmed the leveraging of existing Astrium processes to overall Liberty schedule and delivering quick entry into service, as well as into orbit.
Astrium Space Transportation CEO Alain Charmeau said: "These tests take the Liberty second stage one step closer to production."
A complete commercial crew transportation service, designed to meet NASA's human-rating requirements, the Liberty comprises a spacecraft, abort system, launch vehicle, and both ground and mission operations.
The initial unmanned test flight of Liberty is scheduled in 2014 and the first crewed flight is planned for the following year.
Astrium, the major subcontractor for the programme, is responsible for the provision of the second stage of the Liberty launch vehicle, based on the liquid-fuelled cryogenic core of the Safran-built Vulcain 2 engine-powered Ariane 5 vehicle.
ATK has also completed Liberty's software technical interface meeting (TIM) to finalise the launch vehicle's software development plan with the NASA Liberty team, further supporting its development under a space act agreement (SAA) with NASA for the commercial crew development programme (CCDev).
ATK vice president and Liberty program manager Kent Rominger said understanding how the system would work together throughout the mission was critical in reducing risk and schedule delays.
"Holding this TIM provides us valuable insight into expertise provided by the NASA team and ensures there are no issues we are overlooking," Rominger added.
The development plan oversees the software process used by Liberty team and its subcontractors all through the development, integration, test and flight.
Liberty's additional subcontractors are Safran/Snecma, Moog, Honeywell, Astrotech Space Operations (ASTC), Aerojet, Reynolds, Smith and Hills, Dynamic Concepts and Hamilton Sundstrand.
Image: The elements of the two-stage Liberty rocket. Photo: courtesy of Alliant Techsystems.