BELTSVILLE – NASA Administrator Charles Bolden toured the facilities at ATK Space Systems Division to see what the company is doing to develop the next generation of technology.
“I have seen some work ATK is doing that I heard about but was not fully aware of,” Bolden said. “It is great to see what is going on in the area of satellite servicing. It is important to us. It has been a very encouraging visit.”
ATK provides a portfolio of products and services including integrated satellite bus systems, thermal control systems and many of the tools used by astronauts to service the Hubble Space Telescope. ATK also provides tools used at the International Space Station and is currently developing a robotic satellite servicing capabilities.
During his tour, Bolden viewed a demonstration of ATK’s mission extension vehicle—a robot designed to extend the useful life of satellites orbiting Earth. Bolden said he was happy to see how knowledgeable ATK’s staff were and they were making sure the robots are not making the same mistakes humans have in the past. He hopes NASA is able to use some of the technology in its asteroid redirect program.
“If humans can screw it up robots can too,” Bolden said. “Our job at NASA is to facilitate the success of industry. I just wanted to see what industry has going on that they may need some technical assistance with something they can’t afford or is too risky—something the government should do.”
“We rely very heavily on them,” said Tom Wilson, general manager of the space systems division at ATK. “(NASA) develops the core technology we need to advance to state of the art in commercial businesses.”
Bolden said the relationship NASA and ATK have is a good one, but his priority is to make sure the agency is not getting in the way of ATK’s developments.
“We can’t facilitate their success if we try to tell them too much,” Bolden said. “They have got a lot of ideas about what the market is like. We can do a lot of research but it is not a matter of dollars and bottom line like it is to them. That is when I talk about risk. A private company or business cannot afford the risk of putting the investors’ assets at risk on an idea if it just does not seem like it may not play out. While many people may not like it that is the role of government.”