KENNEDY SPACE CENTER -- ATK Space Systems and NASA announced a new partnership Tuesday to work together on development of ATK's Liberty commercial launch system.
ATK and NASA said they have signed an unfunded Space Act Agreement that allows NASA and the Liberty Program Office to share technical information during the preliminary design review phase of the program.
Kent Rominger, ATK vice president and program manager for Liberty, said the agreement "enables us to exchange information with NASA and receive valuable insight as we develop our fixed-price commercial crew vehicle and prepare it for test flight as early as 2014."
Liberty is ATK Space Systems' contender in the race by private corporations to provide the next generation of manned space vehicles after cancellation of the Constellation system by the Obama administration.
ATK will provide the five-stage solid rocket motor it was developing for Constellation, a version of which was successfully tested at Promontory last week. ATK still does not have a final customer for the rocket.
To go on top of the ATK motor, the European Space Agency will provide a version of the Ariane 5, a rocket that has successfully launched numerous commercial satellites into Earth orbit. Together, Liberty will be able to carry 44,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit.