Press Release

Orbital awarded $53 million in contracts related to NASA’s Space Launch Initiative

By SpaceRef Editor
May 24, 2001
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Orbital Sciences Corporation
today that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has
the company for two contracts, totaling approximately $53 million in value,
part of the space agency’s Space Launch Initiative (SLI) program. First,
awarded Orbital a $47 million contract for the Demonstration of Autonomous
Rendezvous Technology (DART) program. Under the contract, Orbital will
build, test and launch a space maneuvering vehicle derived from the
Pegasus rocket that will flight demonstrate in-orbit autonomous rendezvous
close proximity operations as part of NASA’s 2nd Generation Reusable Launch
Vehicle (RLV) Risk Reduction Initiative. Second, Orbital was awarded a $6
million contract to continue to study and develop the "Space Taxi" Crew
Vehicle (CTV) concept that the company proposed in 2000 under NASA’s Space
Transportation Architecture Study (STAS) program.

"With these major contract awards under the Space Launch Initiative, NASA
clearly demonstrated its continued confidence in the innovative and
cost-effective solutions to the country’s space technology needs that
has been producing for almost two decades," said Mr. David W. Thompson,
Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
The DART Program

Orbital’s Launch Systems Group, together with its industry partner the
Stark Draper Laboratory, will design, develop, manufacture and flight test
DART vehicle. The program is designed to advance the readiness of critical
hardware and software elements necessary for automated in-orbit rendezvous
capture technology previously developed by the NASA Marshall Space Flight
(MSFC). Orbital will also build an advanced video guidance sensor based on
earlier MSFC-developed model that was successfully flight tested on two
Shuttle flights, STS-87 and STS-95. The demonstration flight is also
designed to
validate ground test results from MSFC’s Flight Robotics Facility.

The DART flight demonstration is scheduled to be flown aboard Orbital’s
air-launched rocket in 2004. The DART vehicle will conduct a series of
rendezvous maneuvers with an orbiting satellite to demonstrate autonomous
proximity operations using a modified Pegasus upper stage and avionics
The Pegasus launch service for DART will be managed by the NASA Kennedy
Center Expendable Launch Vehicle Program.

"The DART program continues the company’s tradition that began in the early
1980’s of providing creative, affordable and quick turnaround space launch
technologies that help lower the cost of access to space for government and
commercial customers alike," said Mr. Ronald J. Grabe, Orbital’s Executive
President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group.

"The DART vehicle will be another derivative application from the flight
and reliable Pegasus vehicle that has now been integral to the development
the company’s ground-launched Taurus and Minotaur space launch vehicles, as
as the air-launched Hyper-X/X-43 and X-34 hypersonic vehicles," Mr. Grabe

"Space Taxi" Crew Transfer Vehicle Architecture Study

The $6 million, 19-month "Space Taxi" CTV Architecture Study will build on
Orbital’s recently completed $5 million STAS effort, which was commissioned
NASA headquarters and completed in 2000. Under the new 2nd Generation RLV
Systems Engineering and Architecture Definition contract, Orbital’s Advanced
Programs Group will perform an analysis of requirements for a
space transportation system and will further develop the design of the
Taxi" concept.

The "Space Taxi" CTV system is being designed to perform a variety of future
NASA missions with significant improvements in cost and safety over the
Space Shuttle. The multifunctional Space Taxi vehicle would serve as an
emergency Crew Return Vehicle (CRV) for the International Space Station, a
two-way human space transportation system, a small cargo delivery and return
vehicle, and a platform for performing satellite servicing or in-orbit

"Orbital is very pleased to be selected by NASA as a key partner in
and developing future human space flight systems dedicated to making
unprecedented improvements in safety and the cost of space transportation
NASA and our nation," said Dr. Antonio L. Elias, Orbital’s Senior Vice
and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.

About Orbital

Orbital is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of low-cost space
including satellites, launch vehicles, electronics and sensors, and
ground systems. Orbital is also involved with satellite-based networks that
provide wireless data communications and high-resolution Earth imagery to
customers all around the world.

More information about Orbital can be found at

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Jacques 🙂

SpaceRef staff editor.