- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 27, 2015

IUKA, Miss. (AP) - ATK Iuka played a significant role in the recent historic NASA Orion Exploration Flight Test-1 to deep space.

The Tishomingo County manufacturer produced four large composite ogive panels for the crew capsule and 14 other large composite structures for the Delta IV Heavy rocket for the mission. The ogive panels are the exterior skin of the crew module that provides protection from the extreme temperatures of space.

“The mission marked a major milestone toward America’s new exploration journey to deep space,” said Bryan Warren, Sr. Communications Manager for ATK. “We’re quite proud to be a part of the journey.”

During the test, an unmanned spacecraft took a four-hour trip into space, traveling 15 times farther from Earth than the International Space Station. During its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, Orion traveled at 20,000 miles per hour, faster than any current spacecraft capable of carrying humans, and endured temperatures of approximately 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Orion spacecraft is designed to fly atop America’s new rocket, the Space Launch System (SLS). The largest and most powerful rocket ever to be built, the SLS will launch on its first mission, Exploration Mission-1, in just a few years. While humans have been exploring Mars from afar for years, SLS and Orion will take people there.

“We have a very proud and loyal workforce who work hard to insure the needs of our customers, like NASA, are meet,” Warren said. “We also recently achieved a world-class safety milestone by surpassing two million hours worked without a lost time accident.”

Attributing to the Orion spacecraft hasn’t been ATK Iuka’s only aerospace involvement.

Since opening the Yellow Creek Port plant in 1998, ATK Iuka has helped build the United Launch Alliance Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles.

“The plant manufactures large composite aerospace structures for the launch vehicles,” Warren said. “Composite materials are critically important in the production of next-generation aircraft and launch vehicles because their strength and light weight deliver fuel efficiencies and operability unavailable using traditional metal manufacturing.”

The large composite launch vehicle structures produced in Iuka measure 13 to 16.5 feet in diameter, range from three to 63 feet in length and are manufactured using advanced hand layup, machining and inspection techniques.

The Delta IV composite structures manufactured by ATK Iuka include nose cones and aero-skirts, fairings, payload attach fittings and diaphragms, inter-stages, center-bodies and thermal shields. Structures manufactured for Atlas include heat shields, inter-stages and boat tails.

“Once complete, the large composite structures are shipped by barge or truck to one of the United Launch Alliance plants in Decatur, Alabama, or Harlingen, Texas, or directly to the launch sites in Cape Canaveral, Florida, or Vandenburg Air Force Base in California,” said Warren.

Since opening, the ATK Iuka plant has produced composite structures for other customers such as Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

The plant where ATK Iuka is currently located was originally built in 1989 for NASA’s Advanced Solid Rocket Motor (ASRM) program; however, NASA ownership transferred back to the State of Mississippi in 1996 after cancellation of the program in 1995.

“ATK Iuka has produced aerospace components for almost 20 years at its Northeast Mississippi operation. ATK’s scientists, engineers and technicians are on the cutting edge of aerospace research and development,” said Gary Matthews, executive director of Tishomingo County Development Foundation.

“We are proud of the quality and safety record of ATK and excited about the important role of ATK in America’s re-entry into space.”

About 80 people are employed at the 320,000 square-foot state-of-art facility.

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Information from: The Daily Corinthian.


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