NASA's THEMIS ATK-Built Satellites Complete First Year

Press Release From: Alliant Techsystems
Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alliant Techsystems (NYSE: ATK) reported today that the constellation of five micro satellites it built for NASA's THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) mission successfully completed its initial Coast Phase science operations.

THEMIS is a mission to determine what causes auroras in the Earth's atmosphere to suddenly brighten and expand poleward as shimmering waves of wildly varying red and green streaks of color in the pre-midnight sky.

"All satellite probes continue operating as designed and are in an excellent state of health," stated Mike Cerneck, Vice President and General Manager of ATK Space. "All of the instruments are operational and collecting crucial scientific data for NASA."

Previous single-spacecraft studies of the Earth's magnetosphere have been unable to pinpoint where and when substorms begin, leading to extensive scientific debate on the topic. However, NASA's THEMIS mission aims to solve this mystery with coordinated measurements from ATK's fleet of five identical satellites, strategically placed in key positions in the magnetosphere, in order to isolate the point of substorm origin. When the five probes align over the North American continent, scientists will collect coordinated measurements down-stream of Earth, along the sun-Earth line, allowing the first comprehensive look at the onset of substorms and how they trigger auroral eruptions. Over the mission's two-year lifetime, the probes should be able to observe some 30 substorms.

The mission, named for Themis, the blindfolded Greek Goddess of Order and Justice, launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on February 17, 2007 on a Delta-II 7925 launch vehicle. The five spacecraft buses, built by ATK (legacy Swales Aerospace) and integrated with a suite of magnetospheric physics instruments by the University of California at Berkeley (UCB) Space Sciences Laboratory (SSL) in collaboration with Germany, France and Austria, were initially placed in a 31-hr, highly elliptical orbit by the three-stage launch vehicle.

Beginning in September 2007, the UCB Mission Operations Team directed a complex series of propulsive maneuvers needed to place the probes into their final orbits. Now in place, all five satellite probes line up in the shadow of Earth once every four days, enabling the constellation to perform an array of science measurements studying Solar activity and its effects on the Earth's magnetic field. In addition to addressing its primary objective, THEMIS will also attempt to answer critical questions in radiation belt physics and solar wind - magnetosphere energy coupling.

Headquartered in Edina, Minnesota, ATK is a world leader providing small satellites and large satellite sub-systems, hypersonic engines, rocket motors for spacecraft launch and orbit transfer - programs critical to reaching new space frontiers. With approximately 17,000 employees and annual revenue in excess of $4.1 billion (USD), ATK is the world's largest producer of solid rocket motors and the prime contractor for the first stage of Ares I, NASA's next-generation launch vehicle. News and information can be found on the Internet at

Certain information discussed in this press release constitutes forward- looking statements as defined in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Although ATK believes that the expectations reflected in such forward-looking statements are based on reasonable assumptions, it can give no assurance that its expectations will be achieved. Forward-looking information is subject to certain risks, trends and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those projected. Among those factors are: the challenges of developing advanced space exploration technologies, changes in governmental spending, budgetary policies and product sourcing strategies; the company's competitive environment; the terms and timing of awards and contracts; and economic conditions. ATK undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements. For further information on factors that could impact ATK, and statements contained herein, please refer to ATK's most recent Annual Report on Form 10-K and any subsequent quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

// end //

More news releases and status reports or top stories.

Please follow SpaceRef on Twitter and Like us on Facebook.