Orbital ATK Looks to Take Cygnus to the Next Level With NASA’s Help

Artist concept of the Cygnus derived deep space habitat and airlock serviced by Cygnus derived logistics vehicles. (Credit: Orbital ATK)
Artist concept of the Cygnus derived deep space habitat and airlock serviced by Cygnus derived logistics vehicles. (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virg. (Orbital ATK PR) — While the International Space Station (ISS) is going strong, enabling scientific discoveries in a state of the art orbiting laboratory, NASA is also working on developing pathways to explore beyond low earth orbit to deep-space destinations such as the proving ground of space around the moon, known as cis-lunar space, and Mars. In order to live and work in deep space, astronauts will need additional pressurized habitation capability beyond what the Orion spacecraft currently provides. And Orbital ATK is looking to the Cygnus product line to help fill this need.

So that humans can take that next giant leap, NASA is building on the success of commercial partnerships with the recent Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement. Through this effort, NASA has selected 12 companies to advance concept studies and technology development projects to enable commercial endeavors in space and human exploration in the areas of advanced propulsion, habitation and small satellites.

Building on the success of the Cygnus spacecraft for space station resupply, Orbital ATK is one of seven companies selected for NextSTEP awards for habitation systems. The contract awards have initial performance periods of up to 12 months, at a value of $400,000 to $1 million for study and development efforts, with the potential for follow-on phases to be defined during the initial phase.

“This award allows us to mature plans to develop an Exploration Augmentation Module (EAM) based on the Cygnus product line and a new docking node concept,” said Frank DeMauro, Vice President of Human Spaceflight Systems at Orbital ATK. “Cygnus modules can be added to increase pressurized volume for the crew and outfitted to increase the associated functionality of the EAM.”

The goal of the habitation systems awards is to help define the architecture and subsystems of a modular habitation capability to enable extended missions in deep space.

“Habitation systems and components are necessary equipment to live in space,” DeMauro said. “This covers a broad range of topics from Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), to providing sustenance to the astronauts for their duration of their mission, to providing radiation protection to protect the astronauts for long duration missions outside the asteroid belt, and many items in between.”

Orbital ATK will study the functionality and enabling technologies used to supplement human space transportation systems such as NASA’s Orion spacecraft to initially sustain a crew of four for up to 60 days in cis-lunar space with the ability to scale up to transit habitation capabilities for future Mars missions.

“We will also develop a Concept of Operations that describes how the EAM will develop over time and how i​t will be used to help long-duration human exploration of space and provide a recommended functional baseline for the system architecture,” DeMauro said. “By studying the necessary functionality for the proposed reference missions, we believe that configurations, EAM layouts, and support equipment can be recommended for further review with an emphasis on providing hardware as early as possible.”

Orbital ATK will leverage the company’s experience and knowledge of systems integration and combine it with industry leading teammates in pressurized habitation systems (TAS-I) and the innovation of academia (University of Colorado – Boulder) for ECLSS.

“The Cygnus product line is very versatile and I’m excited to see the outcome of our efforts take this spacecraft to the next level,” DeMauro said.

To learn more about Orbital ATK’s current Commercial Resupply Services and the Cygnus spacecraft, visit: http://www.orbitalatk.com/space-systems/human-space-advanced-systems/commercial-resupply-services/.

For additional information about NASA’s Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships, and to see the full list of awards, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/nextstep.

  • Dennis

    How about they get a properly working rocket again first before holding up hands with NASA again? :X

  • DavidR2015

    NASA should really be more firm with Orbital. They haven’t suffered at all at after the loss of Antares, and if they don’t have any problems getting more business, then they have no incentive to improve. I think that they should be embarrassed that the last three US launch failures were all their rockets, but they just seem to keep on rolling like nothing has happened.

  • Andrew Tubbiolo

    They’re a prime government contractor. Other than the loss of the odd performance bonus, they don’t suffer.

  • Steve Ksiazek

    Cygnus is un-related to the launch vehicle. The Italians build the pressurized module, and Orbital adds the service module which is based on their commercial sat platform. It’s nice easy expansion module to add, and much closer to reality than a equivalent sized module from Bigelow.

  • windbourne

    How is a tin can better than a BA unit?
    It is much easier to puncture.
    It creates loads of scatter radiation.
    It weighs a great deal more for volume.
    And, I would guess that it cost more.

  • Arthur Hamilton

    OATK is going to have to increase the size of the Cygnus pressurized area to ATV/HTV pressurized area or at least 14-15 feet diameter.

  • James

    Why would you use those instead of bigelow habs which are better in every way?

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “…than a equivalent sized module from Bigelow.”
    At 18.75m^3 Cygnus is most nearly equivalent to BEAM, which is sitting in Florida awaiting launch to the ISS “and much closer reality”. But how can Cygnus compare to a fully contained BA330?.

  • Ben Russell-Gough

    I was wondering how long it would be until someone proposed a CygnusLab DSH module/complex.

  • Dennis

    I am well aware of the composition of Cygnus and its relation to Antares. Fact remains, they can’t even launch Cygnus by themselves at the moment, they need ULA to do it because their shitty grabbed together ukranian/russian rocket fell apart 😛

  • Steve Ksiazek

    The “Tin Can” is better because it actually exists.
    Sure, vaporware doesn’t weight anything, and launch costs are zero.
    Can you mount anything to the side of your toy balloon models ?? Can you launch the modules fully outfitted ? Oh wait, Bigelow doesn’t know how to actually outfit a module.

  • windbourne

    Because OSC does not make those.

  • windbourne

    Lets see.

    2 Genesis in space for 10+ years without guards from micrometeorites. It has solar panels, and antennas, etc attached to it.

    1 BEAM which is about the same size as the tin can, and it will be attached to ISS shortly.

    Can you launch the modules fully outfitted? Sure. on the BA-330 the equipment goes into the CENTER, not the edge. And yes, BA has outfitted equipment in there already.

    Now, if you are asking can it go up like destiny, or any of the other modules, well, none of them went up outfitted. Most of the gear came up afterwards.

  • Rob

    You think BA is peddling vaporware? They have a few pieces of actual functioning hardware in orbit right now, plus another that’s waiting for its ride to ISS.

  • Rob

    I chuckled, but to be fair Cygnus has a proven track record for automated orbital rendezvous.