Press Release

Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft Launched to International Space Station

By SpaceRef Editor
December 6, 2015
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Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, successfully launched its CygnusTM spacecraft today aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle with approximately 7,700 pounds (3,500 kilograms) of cargo for the crew aboard the International Space Station (ISS), beginning the company’s fourth operational cargo resupply mission for NASA. Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and scientific experiments to the ISS as part of its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA.

Lift-off of the Atlas V rocket took place at 4:45 p.m. (EST) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Following a 21-minute ascent, the “S.S. Deke Slayton II” Cygnus spacecraft was successfully deployed into its intended orbit approximately 144 miles above the Earth, inclined at 51.6 degrees to the equator. Orbital ATK’s engineering team confirmed that reliable communications has been established and that the vehicle’s solar arrays are fully deployed, providing the necessary electrical power to operate the spacecraft.

“This launch marks the completion of the critical first step of our go-forward plan for the CRS-1 contract to meet our commitments to NASA,” said Frank Culbertson, President of Orbital ATK’s Space System Group. “Everything looks great in this early stage of the mission. I congratulate the combined NASA, ULA and Orbital ATK team for its hard work to get us to this point, and I look forward to completing another safe and successful flight to the ISS in several days.”

The Cygnus spacecraft will be grappled at approximately 6:10 a.m. on Wednesday, December 9. Cygnus will remain attached to the station for approximately 50 days before departing with roughly 5,050 pounds (2,300 kilograms) of disposable cargo for a safe, destructive reentry over the Pacific Ocean.

Like most Orbital ATK spacecraft, Cygnus is compatible with multiple launch vehicles. This capability, combined with the flexibility of ULA’s Atlas V, enabled Orbital ATK to carry out the mission on a shortened schedule to be responsive to NASA’s ISS logistics requirements. Another Cygnus mission on an Atlas V will be launched in March, after which Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket will launch at least two ISS resupply missions in the second and fourth quarters of 2016.

“This launch begins a high tempo of cargo resupply missions supporting the International Space Station,” said Culbertson. “With our enhanced Cygnus spacecraft and upgraded Antares rocket, we are prepared to continue delivering vital cargo to the ISS for the foreseeable future.”

The enhanced Cygnus spacecraft that launched today incorporated numerous planned upgrades of the vehicle including an extended pressurized cargo module (PCM), which enables the spacecraft to carry over 50 percent more cargo than the previous version. The enhanced Cygnus also uses the latest in lightweight space-qualified electrical power technology with the addition of the company’s UltraFlexTM solar arrays which were manufactured at Orbital ATK’s Goleta, California facility.

Under the CRS contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 62,000 pounds (28,000 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over 10 missions through early 2018. For these missions, NASA will manifest a variety of essential items based on ISS program needs, including food, clothing, crew supplies, spare parts, laboratory equipment and scientific experiments. Orbital ATK also provides a critical service by providing large-volume pressurized disposal cargo, a unique capability among America’s commercial cargo providers.

The Cygnus system, which consists of a common service module and a pressurized cargo module, achieves high reliability by incorporating numerous elements from flight-proven spacecraft technologies. The service module is built and tested at Orbital ATK’s Dulles, Virginia manufacturing facility. It uses avionics systems from Orbital ATK’s flight-proven LEOStar™ and GEOStar™ satellite product lines, plus propulsion and power systems from Orbital ATK’s GEOStar communications satellites. The pressurized cargo module is based on the Multi-Purpose Logistics Module developed by Thales Alenia Space for NASA.

Orbital ATK’s composite structures and solid rocket motors also supported today’s launch of the ULA Atlas V rocket. These contributions include a 10-foot diameter composite heat shield on the launch vehicle, manufactured using advanced fiber placement manufacturing techniques at Orbital ATK’s Iuka, Mississippi, facility. This was the 60th ULA Atlas V launch using Orbital ATK-built composite structures.

In addition, this flight marked the 25th successful flight of the Orbital ATK retro motors on the Atlas V, eight of which provided thrust for separation of the spent first stage. The retro motors are built at Orbital ATK’s Elkton, Maryland facility.

Orbital ATK’s upgraded Antares launch vehicle remains on schedule for a full-power hot-fire test in early 2016 and resumption of flight operations from the Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia in the second quarter of the year.

Photo Caption: Orbital ATK’s Cygnus Spacecraft carrying vital cargo to resupply the International Space Station lifts-off aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

About Orbital ATK

Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition; satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the U.S. and in several international locations. For more information, visit

SpaceRef staff editor.