Orbital Dedicates Taurus Mission Ops Center as Bolden Fights for More COTS Funding


Orbital Sciences Corporation announced that it held a formal dedication ceremony earlier today to mark the completion of a new facility that will serve as the Mission Operations Center (MOC) for the company’s cargo logistics missions to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA that begin in 2011. The ribbon-cutting event was attended by NASA’s Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and several other senior representatives of the space agency.

“After nearly three years of developing the Taurus II rocket and the Cygnus spacecraft, we are less than a year away from our first scheduled launch to the ISS,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “The Mission Operations Center dedicated to the COTS and CRS programs is a critical element in our overall system architecture, providing us with robust command and control systems for the upcoming missions, as well as providing direct connectivity capabilities with our Houston-based customers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.”

While at Orbital’s Dulles, VA facilities, the NASA delegation viewed a full-scale mock-up of the Cygnus spacecraft, which will carry essential cargo to the ISS following its launch aboard Orbital’s Taurus II rocket from the Wallops Flight Facility in Eastern Virginia. In addition, Administrator Bolden and the other NASA officials toured Orbital’s Mission Control Complex, which includes three additional MOCs that support the company’s extensive manifest of other satellite and launch vehicle missions. The delegation also visited Orbital’s satellite manufacturing facility, at which four NASA scientific satellites – Glory, NuSTAR, OCO-2 and GEMS – are in various stages of design, production and testing by the company’s technical operations team.

COTS and CRS Overview

Under a 2008 cooperative research and development agreement with NASA in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, Orbital is developing a new autonomous spacecraft and related launch vehicle and ground infrastructure for the delivery of cargo and supplies to the ISS. The COTS program encompasses the full-scale development and flight demonstration of a commercial cargo delivery system that consists of a Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle, a Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft, and ground-based command and control systems.

With the award of the $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract in late 2008, NASA selected Orbital to carry out eight cargo logistics missions to the ISS from 2011 to 2015. For NASA, CRS will provide an automated cargo delivery service, produced and operated in the United States, for ISS logistics support. The new system will complement Russian, European and Japanese ISS cargo vehicles.

There is also this report on the ceremony from Aviation Week:

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, vowing to fight for an early flight of Orbital Science Corp.’s Taurus II launch vehicle, says he can foresee the day when human spaceflight is controlled from the company’s office-building campus near Washington Dulles International Airport.

In a brief question-and-answer session with reporters Nov. 12 following a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Orbital’s new “Mission Control Center-Dulles,” Bolden said he will do everything he can to produce some $300 million in augmented funding for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) this year.

With its share of the money, Orbital will be able to launch a Taurus II on a “risk reduction test flight” as early as the third quarter of next year, according to David W. Thompson, the company’s chairman and chief executive. If the flight goes well, Orbital’s COTS demonstration mission later in the year will be able to carry roughly 1,000 lb. more cargo to the International Space Station in its first Cygnus vehicle.