With the space shuttle fleet retired, there’s a scramble in the United States for the next-generation rocket to take astronauts and cargo into space. There are several private companies hard at work creating rockets such as SpaceX. Another team is working on a rocket called the Liberty that uses parts from the US space shuttle program and Europe’s Ariane rocket.
The company working on Liberty hopes to sell the rockets to NASA to take crewmembers to the ISS and is based in Utah. The company is called Alliant Techsystems (ATK). The bottom section of the rocket is a side booster from the space shuttle. ATK is aiming at 2015 for its first manned mission. With the space shuttle booster as the bottom section of the Liberty rocket, the top half of the rocket would use the liquid-fueled core-stage technology and engine that powers the European Ariane 5.
The Ariane rocket is mostly used to launch large satellites today, but was originally designed to put European astronauts into orbit. The company also announced that it has a capsule for the top of the rocket to carry astronauts and the abort system to pull the crew capsule clear of the rocket engines in the event of an accident. The company has also chosen its first crew as well.