This was one of those "good news-bad news" weeks for Hercules Inc.'s Bacchus Works in Magna.
The good news was the successful launch of a Delta II rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday. As it roared into space on Hercules motors, it was the first commercial flight of a medium-size rocket.The Delta II, manufactured by McDonnell Douglas with Hercules' help, carried a NATO communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit. The satellite is the first of a new generation of NATO spacecraft intended to provide communications for political consultations among NATO member nations.
It will also facilitate information flow between military forces under NATO control.
The Delta used nine graphite-cased solid rocket boosters produced by Hercules at the Bacchus Works, Magna. Six of them fired at ignition and the other three ignited a minute later.
The 7:53 p.m. launch was "a significant event which proves our ability to produce a reliable, cost-effective, rocket motor that will meet the commercial market demands as well as provide advanced market technologies," said Ron Peterson, vice president and general manager for the Bacchus Works. The new graphite epoxy motors are 6 feet longer than the steel-case motors they replace, and add 15 percent more lift capacity to the Delta II.
The bad news was that Defense Secretary Dick Cheney scrapped the development of the A-12 Stealth aircraft. The aerospace giants McDonnell Douglas and General Dynamics are the main contractors, but Hercules was set to supply graphite fiber as a subcontractor.
Graphite fiber, produced in Magna, would have been used to build the plane.
Other than confirming involvement with the A-12 program, Hercules officials were close-mouthed, refusing to say how large their potential market was.
But Dave Nicponski, manager of government affairs for Hercules' Utah operations, said that with diversification, the Strategic and Space Propulsion Division and the Advanced Materials Composites Division "generate upwards of $600 million in business in Utah."
In that context, the impact on Hercules of the A-12 cancellation is minor, Nicponski said.