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Orbital Scoops Up Major Space Station Cargo Delivery Contract

File image of the Taurus 2 launch vehicle that until now had seen very limited sales success.
by Staff Writers
Dulles VA (SPX) Dec 29, 2008
Orbital Sciences Corporation has been selected for a long-term contract by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to provide cargo transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Orbital stated that the contract, awarded under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, has an expected value of approximately $1.9 billion for cargo transportation missions to be conducted between 2011 and 2015.

This contract amount covers ISS cargo transportation services for about 20 metric tons of cargo, which would be accommodated by 8 missions of Orbital's CRS system. The operational missions would follow Orbital's flight demonstration of its CRS system in late 2010 under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which Orbital and the space agency initiated in early 2008.

"We are very appreciative of the trust NASA has placed with us to provide commercial cargo transportation services to and from the International Space Station, beginning with our demonstration flight scheduled in late 2010," said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

"The CRS program will serve as a showcase for the types of commercial services U.S. space companies can offer NASA, allowing the space agency to devote a greater proportion of its resources for the challenges of human spaceflight, deep space exploration and scientific investigations of our planet and the universe in which we live."

To carry out the cargo services missions, Orbital will use the integrated system it is currently developing under the COTS cooperative research and development program with NASA. The company's COTS system is based on Orbital's new Cygnus maneuvering space vehicle and will be the anchor customer for the new Taurus IITM medium-lift launch vehicle, now under development.

Cygnus is made up of a service module, containing the vehicle's propulsion, power systems and avionics, and one of three types of specialized cargo modules. Orbital's design accommodates pressurized, unpressurized and return cargo modules, offering NASA flexibility in its cargo planning.

"CRS represents a dramatic departure from NASA's traditional contracting practices that will be greatly beneficial to both the space agency and the nation's industrial base," said Dr. Antonio L. Elias, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Orbital's Advanced Programs Group, which oversees both the COTS and CRS projects.

Leading up to the first flight of Orbital's system, the company has begun preparations for its CRS-related production and testing activities over the next 18 months at its Dulles, Virginia headquarters and space vehicle engineering center; its Chandler, Arizona launch vehicle operations; and its Wallops Island, Virginia payload processing facility and launch base.

Orbital recently determined that it would conduct the testing of the first stage engines of the Taurus II rocket at NASA's Stennis Space Center facility in Mississippi. The company has also begun its on-site preparations for the launch site infrastructure at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at Wallops Island that will support Taurus II launches.

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ISS Astronauts Successfully Complete Spacewalk
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Dec 23, 2008
Astronauts aboard the International Space Station successfully completed their spacewalk on Tuesday, Russia's Mission Control said. The ISS commander American Michael Fincke and Russian engineer Yury Lonchakov, who arrived on the orbital station in October, closed the hatch to the Pirs docking station at 09:29 a.m. Moscow Time (06:29 GMT). The spacewalk, which was delayed by 37 minutes after last-minute pressure checks, lasted almost six hours.

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