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ATK Technologies Help NASA's Swift in its Launch of Gamma Ray Bursts

29 November 2004

ATK solid propulsion and composite technologies supported Saturday’s successful launch of a Boeing Delta II rocket carrying NASA’s Swift observatory into orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

Swift, which includes four key ATK composite assemblies, will study gamma ray bursts - the most powerful explosions in the universe.

Augmented thrust for the launch was provided by three GEM-40 solid propulsion strap-on boosters manufactured by ATK - continuing a tradition of flight support for Delta II missions that began in 1990.

The boosters ignited at lift-off with the first-stage main engine and burned for about one minute. The spent motors were jettisoned from the rocket as it continued its ascent.

Protecting the Swift observatory during its launch and ascent was a 10-foot composite payload fairing manufactured by ATK.

For NASA’s Swift, ATK designed and produced four unique composite structures to protect and stabilize the observatory’s highly sensitive instruments in space. Covered by a composite coded mask panel fabricated by ATK, the Burst Alert Telescope (BAT) is the first of Swift’s instruments to detect and localize a gamma ray burst. The precision X-ray telescope, also fashioned by ATK, and the ultraviolet/optical telescope, are supported by a stable ATK composite optical bench. Protecting the Swift telescopes is a sunshade held in place by five ATK composite tubes.