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ATK (UNKNOWN: ATK.DL ) -- the company sometimes still known as Alliant Techsytems and the nation's largest space launch rocket motor producer -- wants to turn the black of space "green."
On Monday, the company's Missile Products division announced the successful completion of ground testing on a new kind of thruster technology for maneuvering rockets and satellites. The tech, referred to as High Performance Green Propulsion (HPGP) aims to replace use of the potentially hazardous hydrogen/nitrogen fuel source hydrazine with a new fuel that blends ammonium dinitramide, water, methanol, and ammonia to create a "green " propellant.
ATK spokeswoman Kristin Vick explains in an email that the HPGP propellant "has less impact on the environment and people" than does hydrazine-based propellant. Additionally, the new formulation outperforms hydrazine in flight by nearly 30% -- meaning that even if it costs more than hydrazine, it delivers more bang for the buck.
Key to the new propellant's attractiveness, according to Vick, is the fact that by being safer to use, both for the environment in general and humans in particular, plus offering increased performance, the HPGP propellant offers "an overall reduction in lifecycle costs for the defense and aerospace industries."
HPGP thrusters and fuel were originally developed abroad, by the Swedish Space Corporation. In the U.S., ATK possesses a license to sell both the new fuel and the new thrusters. ATK is currently blending the new propellant in its Elkton, Md., facility, where it is also testing the thrusters.