- Press Release
- August 18, 2022
Orbital Awarded $53 Million in Contracts Related to NASA’s Space Launch Initiative
$47 Million DART Program to Use Pegasus-Derivative Rocket to Demonstrate In-Orbit Automated Rendezvous Technology – Company’s ‘Space Taxi’ Crew Transfer Vehicle Concept Receives $6 Million In Funding for Next Level of Study and Development
Orbital Sciences Corporation
announced today that the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) has selected the company for two contracts, totaling
approximately $53 million in value, as part of the space agency’s Space Launch
Initiative (SLI) program.
First, NASA awarded Orbital a $47 million contract
for the Demonstration of Autonomous Rendezvous Technology (DART) program.
Under the contract, Orbital will design, build, test and launch a space
maneuvering vehicle derived from the company’s Pegasus rocket that will flight
demonstrate in-orbit autonomous rendezvous and close proximity operations as
part of NASA’s 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle (RLV) Risk Reduction
Second, Orbital was awarded a $6 million contract to continue to
study and develop the “Space Taxi” Crew Transfer 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
has clearly demonstrated its continued confidence in the innovative and cost-
effective solutions to the country’s space technology needs that Orbital 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
Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, will design, develop, manufacture and flight
test the DART vehicle.
The program is designed to advance the readiness of
critical hardware and software elements necessary for automated in-orbit
rendezvous and capture technology previously developed by the NASA Marshall
Space Flight Center (MSFC).
Orbital will also build an advanced video
guidance sensor based on an earlier MSFC-developed model that was successfully
flight tested on two Space 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
Pegasus 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 system.
The Pegasus launch service for DART will be managed by the NASA Kennedy Space
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
Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group.
“The DART vehicle will be another derivative application from the flight
proven and reliable Pegasus vehicle that has now been integral to the
development of the company’s ground-launched Taurus and Minotaur space launch
vehicles, as well as the air-launched Hyper-X/X-43 and X-34 hypersonic
vehicles,” Mr. Grabe remarked.
“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 by
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 next-generation
space transportation system and will further develop the design of the “Space
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
current 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
designing and developing future human space flight systems dedicated to making
unprecedented improvements in safety and the cost of space transportation for
NASA and our nation,” said Dr. Antonio L. Elias, Orbital’s Senior Vice
President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.
Orbital is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of low-cost space
systems, including satellites, launch vehicles, electronics and sensors, and
satellite 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 http://www.orbital.com