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Letter: ATK's future: Company needs to have a solution that is good enough to compete

Published: Sunday, Aug. 12 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

This undated computer generated illustration provided by SpaceX shows a Dragon Crew spacecraft in Earth orbit showing solar panels in the process of deploying. NASA has picked three aerospace companies to build small rocketships to take astronauts to the International Space Station. This is the third phase of NASA's efforts to get private space companies to take over the job of the now-retired space shuttle. The space agency is giving them more than $1.1 billion. Two of three ships are capsules like in the Apollo era and the third is a lifting body that is closer in design to the space shuttle.

SpaceX, Associated Press

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ATK is crying because three other companies won big contracts from NASA. As usual, ATK and its Rep. Rob Bishop are claiming that the others won by unfair lobbying. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

ATK has a long history of wining and dining (and sometimes whining) its way into government contracts. In the 1970s, ATK's predecessor won the shuttle contract largely because Utah Sen. Frank Moss chaired the relevant committee. NASA's technical people favored another solution, but Moss brought home the bacon for Utah. Bishop is continuing in the same corrupt history.

ATK and Bishop can't conceive of anyone winning a government contract fairly on the technical merits because ATK's biggest win didn't happen that way.

Now, in truth, Boeing will likely not succeed for NASA. But the other two winners are innovative and may actually work out. Sierra Nevada Corp. makes the unique hybrid engines used by SpaceShipOne, the first private spacecraft, and its successor SpaceShipTwo which will begin private flights for paying customers soon. SpaceX builds the Dragon, the first privately developed craft to dock with the International Space Station, and the well-regarded Falcon launchers.

The future belongs to the nimble and innovative. Companies like Sierra Nevada, SpaceX, Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Armadillo Aerospace and LaserMotive are the future of space flight. If ATK's solution is really so great, they should be able to compete commercially even without NASA pork.

Steve Setzer

Springville

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