-- Launch of Company’s First Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft Aboard Antares Rocket Targeted for Next Tuesday, September 17 --
-- COTS Demonstration Mission to Pave the Way for Regularly Scheduled ISS Supply Flights Beginning Late This Year --
(Dulles, VA 13 September 2013) – Earlier today, Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) rolled out its Antares™ rocket that will launch the company’s first Cygnus™ spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) for its demonstration mission under the Commercial Orbital Transportations Services (COTS) joint development program with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Orbital is currently targeting Tuesday, September 17 for the launch during a 15-minute window from 11:16 to 11:31 a.m. (EDT). During the mission, the Antares rocket will boost the Cygnus spacecraft into a parking orbit of approximately 245 x 300 kilometers in altitude, inclined at 51.6° to the equator. Live coverage of the COTS demonstration mission will be available on NASA Television and at http://www.nasa.gov/ntv.
Roll-out operations began at about 2:30 a.m., with the Antares rocket first emerging from its Horizontal Integration Facility at about 3:45 a.m. this morning. The rocket was transported about one mile to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) launch complex, known as Pad 0A, aboard the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL), a specialized vehicle that also raised the rocket to a vertical position on the launch pad and serves as a support interface between the rocket and the launch complex’s systems. By about 1:00 p.m., Antares was in a fully vertical position on the launch pad.
Following its launch by the Antares rocket, Cygnus will conduct an extensive series of in-orbit maneuvers and demonstrations over a five-day period to verify that all onboard operating systems are functioning properly and that ground controllers at Orbital’s Mission Control Center (MCC), located at the company’s Dulles, VA campus, are able to command, control and communicate with the spacecraft as designed and extensively rehearsed. Assuming a September 17 launch, Orbital and NASA are currently targeting the morning of Sunday, September 22, for the Cygnus rendezvous, grapple and berthing operations with the ISS at an altitude of about 415 kilometers above the Earth. On its demonstration mission, Cygnus will deliver approximately 700 kilograms of cargo, including food and clothing, to the Expedition 37 crew, which will also load Cygnus with disposal cargo prior to its departure from the station approximately 30 days later.
Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, said, “Today’s roll-out of the fully integrated Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft, along with this weekend’s on-pad testing and readiness review, are the final steps leading up to next week’s launch of our COTS demonstration mission. This mission will mark the completion of a five-year journey that NASA and our company embarked on in 2008 to create a new medium-class rocket, a sophisticated logistics spacecraft and a world-class launch site at the Wallops Flight Facility.”
Following a successful COTS demonstration mission, Orbital plans to begin regularly scheduled cargo supply missions under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA later this year. Orbital is currently scheduled to launch the first of eight CRS missions to the ISS as early as December. All CRS flights will originate from NASA’s Wallops base, which is geographically well suited for ISS missions and can also accommodate launches of scientific, defense and commercial satellites to other orbits.
The Antares medium-class launch vehicle will provide a major increase in the payload launch capability that Orbital can provide to NASA, the U.S. Air Force and commercial customers. The Antares rocket will launch spacecraft weighing up to 14,000 lbs. into low-Earth orbit, as well as lighter-weight payloads into higher-energy orbits. Orbital’s newest launcher is currently on-ramped to both the NASA Launch Services-2 and the U.S. Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3 contracts, enabling the two largest U.S. government space launch customers to order Antares for “right-size and right-price” launch services for medium-class spacecraft. For more information on Antares, click here.
Orbital developed the Cygnus cargo spacecraft as part of its COTS joint research and development initiative with NASA. Beginning later this year, Orbital will conduct eight operational Cygnus missions to deliver approximately 20,000 kilograms of cargo to the ISS, including crew supplies and consumables, spare parts and equipment, and scientific experiments. Cygnus consists of a common Service Module (SM) and a Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM). The SM incorporates avionics, power and propulsion systems already successfully flown aboard dozens of Orbital’s LEOStar™ and GEOStar™ satellite products. The PCM, designed and built by Thales Alenia Space under a subcontract from Orbital, is based on the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module (MPLM) used with the Space Shuttle. For more information on Cygnus, click here.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com. Follow the company on Twitter @OrbitalSciences
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