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Dark horse set to ride into space race, strapped to world's largest solid rocket booster


Alliant Techsystems (ATK) may not be on top of your betting card, but it has plenty of shuttle motor pedigree. To compete with the likes of SpaceX, Astrium and others, it's putting that technical savvy into its Liberty system to carry seven astronauts -- or tourists -- and cargo into low earth orbit. The huge 300-foot rocket and composite crew module would use ATK's solid rocket motor, originally designed for the ill-fated Ares 1, along with EAD's Ariane 5 engine, to become the heaviest lifter in NASA's fleet. Already knee-deep in a separate project, the Space Launch System designed to send Orion into deep space, ATK would like to wean NASA off it's pricy $63 million Russian ISS hitchhikes with a cheaper option that could be mission-ready in just three years. We've heard that kind of talk before, but if Liberty pulls it off, it could give our out-world aspirations a much needed ticket to ride.

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