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Space, the Final Frontier

Jennifer Dixon
American Civilization
Salt Lake Community College
March 31, 2016


It is difficult to say what is impossible, for the dream of yesterday is the hope of
today and reality of tomorrow. - Robert Goddard

Orbital ATK designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related
systems to customers around the world including NASA. They are the leading
provider of small and medium class space launch vehicles for civil, military and
commercial missions, premier producer of solid rocket propulsion systems and
specialty energetic products. They are a world class manufacturer of composite
structures for commercial and military aircraft and launch vehicles. Orbital ATK is
also a provider of commercial cargo delivery services to the International Space
Station and developer of advanced commercial space-launch systems as well as a
premier provider of spacecraft components and subsystems and specialized
engineering services. (Orbital ATK Inc. 2016) Kathy Allman works at Orbital ATK as a
rocket scientist focusing on developing and improving the boosters for the space
crafts that are launched.
This may come as a surprise to some people but NASA doesn’t build their
own rockets. NASA is in a sense, a planning committee; they are a group of very
intelligent people who figure out what they want to do in space and then focus on
how to implement these ideas. NASA then informs their contractor, such as Orbital
ATK, what they want and when they want it by. Everyone who is involved in the
space shuttle program are qualified sub-contractors for building shuttle
components. NASA is helping the economy and creating thousands of jobs by subcontracting out different people to build different rocket components instead of
trying to do it all themselves.


Someone in the space industry may not see their project make it to the
launch pad until they retire. It is very common for ideas and projects to take ten to
fifteen years to be developed and then built and because of this, NASA looks toward
school-age children for their future. The number of NASA applicants has greatly
increased since the announcement of Mars exploration possibilities. It is important
that the dreams of reaching space for children remain alive, especially after
American Space Program closed.
Anyone involved in the Space Shuttle Program is first required to extensively
read the very large book titled, “The Challenger Launch Decision-Risky Technology,
Culture and Deviance at NASA” by Diane Vaughan. The book is about the Challenger
disaster and the mistakes that were made. Requiring all employees to read the book
is to ensure the mistakes made during the Challenger flight are not repeated
because nothing has a higher value in this program than human life. Human flight is
taken very seriously in the space industry, there are innumerable precautions taken
to ensure no mistakes are made or repeated and so it takes much longer to develop
and build a spacecraft for human flight as opposed to commercial flight. After the
space shuttle Columbia blew up on February 1, 2003 killing seven, it seems much of
society didn’t take notice. Even though this resulted in some astronauts stranded on
the space station, society saw space exploration as very routine. People just didn’t
seem to notice there was something seriously wrong, the hype was gone explains
Kathy drearily.
Kathy works on the rocket boosters that are attached to the rocket for the
first 120 seconds into flight. The boosters are 12 feet long and allow the rocket to
launch off the pad and past the sound barrier where they are separated from the
rocket just before the ship breaks the Earth’s gravity. There is a great deal of

developing and testing that goes into the building of the boosters, especially with
human flight. Components that are tested on the boosters also include the
propellant, insulation and liner.
The first thing that is done when building a booster is extensive research and
development. Commercial boosters and human flight boosters are vastly different
from each other and each flight seems to be different depending on what is being
launched so research and testing is crucial. Once the development is done, the
booster is tested horizontally on a much smaller scale. Determining the speed of
how quickly the fuel is depleted in a booster can be calculated by testing a small
scaled model. The calculation is then scaled in order to aggregate values of a fullsized rocket. Once the small scale testing is complete to the satisfaction of those
involved, the scale size is gradually increased, making adjustments and
improvements to the models as they increase in size.
Kathy has been awarded a prestigious “Silver Snoopy Award”; this award is
said to best symbolize the intent and spirit of Space Flight Awareness. An astronaut
always presents the Silver Snoopy because it is the astronauts’ own award for
outstanding performance, contributing to flight safety and mission success. Fewer
than 1% of the aerospace program workforce receive it annually. She received the
award for developing a system to figure out how to save money on a rocket
component. She worked hard to figure out how to successfully build a component
for the amount that was quoted to the purchaser. It was a strong data driven based
project where she collected data from thousands of various tools to figure out where
and how to save money.


Kathy was involved in building the boosters for the last American launched
human flight on July 8, 2011. This last flight served to complete the construction of
the space station as well as servicing the Hubble telescope. When the Constellation
Program was launched in 2005 the focus was on adding a third segment to the
boosters and to develop five segments for the solid rocket booster. Now that the
program is no longer being funded, Orbital ATK is continuing resolution with
Congress. The Space program is now a low-budget research and development
program for whatever the next launch vehicle is.
Kathy has proudly helped to develop and build various boosters for rockets
including the Delta II, Delta IV, Atlas V, Ares IV and the Orion. The first three rockets
are what space programs participants lovingly call “the stick” model. It is a very
successful model featuring the boosters safely below the cabin or the satellite that
is being launched rather than on the sides that we typically expect to see. She
explains saying good bye to the Ares IV and replacing it with the more successful
model of the Atlas V was a very bitter-sweet experience due to the time and energy
she put into the Ares IV.
Between the first launch on April 12, 1981, and the final landing on July 21,
2011, NASA’s space shuttle fleet flew 135 missions, helped construct the
International Space Station and inspired generations. (Dunbar & Loff, 2015) Once
the space program was cancelled, thousands of people working on what is called
the “space coast” in Florida were left without jobs. The government did give money
to aid those individuals who had to find a new job. When Obama decided to cancel
the Space Program, there was no longer any money for America to develop their
own rocket motors and it was cheaper to simply purchase Russian ones. Kathy
explains, “Our astronauts hate flying on Russian rockets because they are only sub5

par and don’t pass U.S. safety standards. But we can’t afford our own engines, so
we have to depend on Russia for theirs.”
Orbital ATK and NASA are now currently working on deep space exploration
and going to Mars, but the United States is dependent on Russia for this since their
space program is still active. Trips to the International Space Station are also still
being made. The International Space Station looks like a much smaller version of
Star Trek’s space station. It was built gradually through several shuttle trips, each
shuttle brought a different space station module and put it together, similar to
Tinker Toys. In order to reach the space station, astronauts first fly to Russia and
then travel in what is called a Soyuz, a Russian vehicle that currently takes
astronauts into space. It takes only about fifteen minutes for a space shuttle to
reach low orbit around Earth where it then has to circle around Earth a few times to
align itself properly with the Space Station. Aligning with the space station must be
perfect because going too fast would cause the ship to fly away, deeper into space,
but going too slow would make it unable to dock. The total time it takes the ship to
arrive at the Space Station is approximately two days. The Space Station can be
seen by the naked eye and is a website where people
can go and to learn the exact location of the station. The Space Station can be seen
every 90 minutes and looks like a very bright star that moves very quickly because
it’s in orbit.
The purpose of going to the Space Station is to experiment and learn about
the affects space has on the human body. Many of the ideas for different space
experiments are questions children and adults alike have about space such as, “Do
plants grow in space?” The astronauts and scientists will take the various questions
people present and test them. Experiments are also done on the body and how it

can retain its muscle mass in space. The human body’s muscles and internal organs
rely on gravity to maintain their mass and function, so exercises are continuously
being researched to figure out how to maintain our bodies in space. Interestingly
enough, we do not age in space because gravity is the culprit for wrinkles, which
causes us to look older. Recently, the first astronaut to stay on the space station for
an entire year returned home to explain that he felt he could have easily stayed out
another year.
Currently, the concerns regarding the exploration of Mars is the distance.
Right now, it takes two days to dock at the Space Station but traveling to Mars takes
about a year. Because Mars is such a long trip the body is exposed to small amounts
of radiation and scientists are trying to determine how to protect the body against
the it as well as determine the perfect age of an astronaut for space travel.
Scientists want someone at the perfect age where they will die of natural causes
instead of the radiation they are exposed to. Lastly, because Mars is so much
further than the Space Station, if exercises are not properly executed in space then
by the time the astronauts reach Mars their body will be weak becoming atrophied
from a lack of movement and gravity resistance.
“I think it’s amazing when we realize how routinely we send people back and
forth from space considering how many risks are involved.” explains Kathy. History
is being made every day for those involved in space exploration; it is still so new
with so many unanswered questions. Even the concept of homeostasis is still
merely a theory. I think it is important to remember NASA’s vision: We reach for new
heights and reveal the unknown for the benefit of humankind.


“Anyone who sits on top of the largest hydrogen-oxygen fueled system in the world;
knowing they’re going to light the bottom-and doesn’t get a little worried-does not
fully understand the situation.” -John Young, after being asked if he was worried
about making the first Space Shuttle flight.


Suggested Websites for More Information:

Works Cited:
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Loff, Sarah & Dunbar, Brian)
(July 2015)
Retrieved from
Orbital ATK Inc. (2016)
Retrieved from


Kathy Allman (center) receiving award nomination with a friend and
astronaut (left) and astronaut’s husband (right)


Kathy Allman (right) with her husband (right) at the last launching of the Space
Program shuttle launch on July 8, 2011