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ATK is Two For Two on Mars

Nine ATK Motors Helped Opportunity Make a Picture Perfect Landing on the Red Planet

Jan 26, 2004

Minneapolis, Jan. 26, 2004 – ATK (Alliant Techsystems, NYSE: ATK) has successfully helped guide the second Mars Exploration Rover (MER) named "Opportunity" to its landing site on the Meridiani Planum on Mars. The first MER, named "Spirit" hit its target in the Gusev Crater earlier in the month.

Before landing, three solid propellant gas generators manufactured by ATK inflated airbags that cocooned the lander and rover assembly for its descent onto the Martian surface. Three ATK Rocket Assisted Deceleration (RAD) solid rocket motors fired to slow the spacecraft’s speed of descent to almost zero feet per second. During the descent, three ATK Transverse Impulse Rocket System (TIRS) motors were available to compensate for lateral drift, but were not fired because the spacecraft detected little drift. The gas generators continued firing to keep the air bags inflated as the MER bounced and rolled to a stop. The RAD and TIRS motors and gas generators were designed and fabricated by ATK Elkton, Elkton, Md.

ATK Composites also provided the composite/titanium optical mast that houses the MER’s navigational and panoramic cameras. Essentially acting as the "head" and "neck" of the rover, the mast gives the rover the necessary height to see greater distances on the Martian surface.

ATK has played critical roles throughout the journey to Mars, beginning with the launch where nine GEM-60 solid propulsion strap-on boosters provided the additional thrust to Boeing’s RS-27A main engine to send the MER on its way. ATK Thiokol Propulsion manufactures the GEM family of boosters at its production facility in Magna, Utah. ATK Composites, Clearfield, Utah, manufactured the graphite epoxy cases for the GEM-40 boosters.

Journey to the Red Planet

Opportunity traveled through space on its seven month journey encased in a strong, lightweight composite lander structure shielding it from the rigors of space travel and the impact of the Mars landing. Composite Optics Inc. (COI), San Diego, Calif., built the lander structures and performed significant design and analysis for the project. In addition, COI manufactured the solar array substrates that provided power during the "cruise" stage to Mars and the solar array substrates mounted on the MER to provide power on the surface of Mars.

ATK is a $2.2 billion aerospace and defense company with strong positions in propulsion, composite structures, munitions, precision capabilities, and civil and sporting ammunition. The company, which is headquartered in Edina, Minn., employs approximately 12,600 people and has three business groups: Precision Systems, Aerospace, and Ammunition and Related Products. ATK news and information can be found on the Internet at

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