NASA Awards Launch for Orbital’s Pegasus Rocket

Pegasus_L1011
Dulles, VA, 1 April 2014 (Orbital PR) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded the company a contract to launch the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) multi-satellite mission aboard a Pegasus XL rocket carried aloft by Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft. The CYGNSS mission is scheduled to launch in October 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

“Pegasus has been the workhorse of the small-class launch market for reliable missions to orbit for over two decades, with its last 28 consecutive missions fully successful over a 16-year period,” said Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of the Launch Systems Group. “With this new Pegasus contract, Orbital will continue its long-standing support of NASA science missions, providing our flagship rocket to launch another important mission for the global science community.”

CYGNSS will produce measurements of ocean surface winds throughout the life cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes, which could help lead to better forecasting of severe weather on Earth. The mission, led by the University of Michigan, will use a constellation of eight small satellites that will be carried to orbit on the Pegasus launch vehicle. CYGNSS’s micro-satellite observatories will receive direct and reflected signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) satellites. CYGNSS is the first award for space-based investigations in the Earth Venture-class series of rapidly developed, cost-constrained projects for NASA’s Earth Science Division. NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA, manages the Earth System Science Pathfinder program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.

About the Pegasus Rocket

Pegasus is the world’s leading launch system for the deployment of small satellites into low-Earth orbit. Its patented air-launch system, in which the rocket is launched from beneath Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 carrier aircraft over the ocean, reduces cost and provides customers with unparalleled flexibility to operate from virtually anywhere on Earth with minimal ground support requirements. The CYGNSS mission will be the 43rd Pegasus space launch since its introduction in 1990, and will mark a total of 93 satellites launched by the rocket. It remains the world’s only small space launch vehicle that is certified to NASA’s Payload Risk Category 3, which the space agency reserves for its highest-value space missions.

About Orbital

Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com. Follow the company on Twitter @OrbitalSciences.

  • windbourne

    Considering that OSC charges some 50 million for this, then SpaceX might want to consider either restarting F1, or simply offer up space on an F9

  • Tonya

    Or anyone else, if $50m is the current price that is ludicrously uncompetitive.

    SpaceX have moved on, but there’s clearly a market there offering a first step for new players.

  • windbourne

    I love your idea better.
    It would be useful to see Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR), or some other company develop a small rocket for launching 1 metric tonne into LEO for say 10 million.
    In fact, it might be useful to see another COTS on that for 2 companies. ATK could build solid rockets for that, and AR or perhaps Blue Origin could do one as well.

    In fact, offer them a small amount of money to develop it, but a large contract for say 5 years with 2-3 launches / year. That is enough to get these companies involved. And considering that microsats are where things are headed, it might be useful.
    That and the fact that China has their LM-11 coming in 3-4 years, which is nothing more than a solid fuel missile (once they obtain formulas for the fuel) for launching small 1 tonne sats.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    It could manifest as a duel or secondary payload but timing may be an issue. Certainly FH will have that capability.

  • Tonya

    It’s orbit and schedule, the combination is why there is a market at all for small launchers.

  • savuporo

    Since Falcon -1 was pulled off market, Europe and Japan have brought two operational launchers out in the same class. Granted, they look a lot more ahem, intercontinentally ballistic than F1 in their construction.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I think NASA could change their name to MMTS (More Money Than Sense).

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    True enough, and from a cost/kg perspective, an unfortunate harsh reality…..but I don’t like it!.

  • Tonya

    Well, it won’t be forever. Apart from the economics, you have to wonder how many more years Orbital can keep that TriStar flying. It should be in a museum!

  • Tonya

    I suppose in the low payload category, what has held back any new commercial entrant has been the Russian stockpile of retired SS-18s. With no other use, the price to convert these to the Dnepr launcher will always undercut a new vehicle.

  • windbourne

    Not a problem anymore. 🙁

    But, it makes sense for US to have low-end available, esp. as solid fuel

  • windbourne

    Too bad they can not modify it to do other things while sitting around. It seems like a smart use would be a slurry bomber or perhaps even modify it hold a telescope.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Yep and that’s why launch vehicles can dogleg if necessary if they have excess capability. The cost of this flight is nearly the same as an F9. A flight as a secondary would be a lot lot cheaper. As for market, well that’s debatable. If it’s simply a government market then in my book, it aint one which is why F1e was shelved.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Agreed.

  • Tonya

    Only Sandra Bullock could deliver a secondary payload into a different inclination to the primary. The dogleg manoeuvre is usually used to avoid overflight problems from a specific launch site.

  • Kim Keller

    $50M includes the “surcharge” for NASA insight. That equates to something like $10-20M on top of the basic launch service. The same surcharges will apply to Falcon 9.