Orbital ATK Unveils OmegA Rocket

OmegA rocket (Credit: Orbital ATK)

DULLES, Virginia, 16 April 2018 (Orbital ATK PR) — During the 34th annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Orbital ATK (NYSE: OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, today provided a detailed update on the important progress being made on its Next Generation Launch System.

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Space Angels Network Opposes Removing Limits on ICBM Motors

Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)
Minotaur I launch. (Credit: NASA)

The Space Angels Network has been lobbying against an amendment to the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would allow greater use of excess ICBM motors for commercial satellite launches. The network says the measure would benefit one company, Orbital ATK, whose Minotaur line of boosters uses these motor,  at the expense of an emerging commercial small-satellite launch industry.

The use of ICBM motors are liimited to launches where commercial alternatives are unavailable. The amendment would remove that restriction.

A letter the network sent to the Senate Armed Services Committee is reproduced below.

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Orbital Wants to Use Old Missiles to Launch Commercial Satellites

A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)
A Minotaur V rocket carrying NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) lifts off from at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Friday, Sept. 6, 2013. (Credit: NASA/Chris Perry)

Orbital ATK would like to expand its use of old ballistic missile engines for commercial launches.

Orbital Vice President Barron Beneski said in an interview on Friday that the company was pushing Washington to get the ban lifted as part of the National Defense Authorization Act that sets defense policy for fiscal 2017, which begins Oct. 1.

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Launch Provider Panel at Space Tech Expo

Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA - S. Corvaja, 2012)
Inaugural Vega flight. (Credits: ESA – S. Corvaja, 2012)

At the Space Tech Expo last week in Long Beach, Calif., representatives from Arianespace, Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) discussed the fierce competition in the industry and their plans for the future.

PANELISTS

Carissa Christensen
Managing Partner
The Tauri Group
(Moderator)

Gwynne Shotwell
President & Chief Operating Officer
SpaceX

Daniel J Collins
Chief Operating Officer
United Launch Alliance

Clay Mowry
President
Arianespace

Frank Culbertson
Executive Vice President
Orbital Sciences Corporation

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U.S. Launch Companies at Crossroads in 2014

Cygnus is released from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)
Cygnus is released from the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Part 2 of 2

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

Editor’s Note: In Part 1, we took a look at the highly successful year that all three U.S. launch providers had in 2013.  Today, we will look at the challenges ahead for each company.

Coming off a stellar year, each of America’s three launch providers — Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) — finds itself in a distinctly different place and facing unique challenges. The coming year could begin to significantly remake the global launch market, with significant consequences for all three players and rival providers overseas.

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A Successful Year for U.S. Launch Providers as New Vehicles Debut

A false color infrared image of the Antares launch. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
A false color infrared image of the Antares launch. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Part 1 of 2

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

It has been a busy year for American rocket companies, with 19 successful missions flown by the nation’s three launch providers. The U.S. space transportation fleet became more diverse as three boosters and a cargo vessel made successful maiden flights in 2013.

Launch highlights for the year include a number of significant missions and firsts:

  • Orbital Sciences Corporation debuted its new Antares launch vehicle with two flawless flights in April and September;
  • Orbital’s new Cygnus freighter made a successful demonstration flight to the International Space Station (ISS), paving the way for commercial cargo deliveries and successfully closing out NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program;
  • SpaceX successfully debuted an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle in September;
  • On the same flight, SpaceX succeeded in a controlled re-entry of a Falcon 9 first stage, a crucial step toward its goal of making the rocket reusable;
  • Two month later, SpaceX launched a commercial communications satellite into geosynchronous orbit for the first time;
  • Orbital’s Minotaur V made a successful maiden flight in September by sending NASA’s LADEE orbiter to the moon;
  • United Launch Alliance’s (ULA) Atlas V launched the space agency’s MAVEN probe to Mars two months later;
  • ULA increased its launch tempo, with 11 flights of the highly reliable Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicles;
  • The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) in Virginia came into its own in 2013, with three orbital launches and the LADEE mission to the moon;

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A Closer Look at Orbital Sciences’ Stable of Launch Vehicles

Antares_first_launch
Continuing our look at U.S. launch vehicles, we turn our spotlight onto Orbital Sciences Corporation.  Although the Virginia company is traditionally a supplier of small launch vehicles, it recently made the leap to medium-lift rockets.

Orbital currently operates four launch vehicles:

  • Pegasus, an air-launched solid-fuel vehicle for small satellites;
  • Taurus, a land-based variant of the Pegasus booster with a decommissioned Peacekeeper ballistic missile used as the first stage;
  • Minotaur, a family of small solid-fuel launchers that uses a mixture of decommissioned Peacekeeper and Minuteman II ballistic missile stages and Pegasus and Taurus technology; and,
  • Antares, a new medium-class, liquid-fuel booster developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that will launch Cygnus freighters to the International Space Station.

The company also is developing a new air-launched rocket nicknamed Pegasus II for Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems company. This new medium launch vehicle is set to make its debut flight in 2016.

Let’s now take a closer look at Orbital’s programs. The launch history tables below are adapted from Wikipedia.

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SpaceX Wins Two New U.S. Government Launch Contracts


The U.S. Air Force has awarded SpaceX the first two contracts under a new $900 million program aimed at increasing competition in the launch market:

SpaceX will use its Falcon 9 v1.1 to boost NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) in November 2014 and the Falcon 9 Heavy for launch of a Space Test Program satellite in September 2015, says Lt. Gen. Ellen Pawlikowski, program executive officer for Air Force space programs.

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Pentagon Opens Up Launch Market to Competition

Launch of Atlas V NRO satellite on June 20, 2012. (Credit: ULA)

The Pentagon has opened up its launch contracts for both large and small satellites to competition, but in a way that will likely disappoint upstart launch provider SpaceX.

For large payloads, the U.S. Air Force will go forward with a scaled back bulk buy of up to 36 Atlas V and Delta IV rocket cores over the next five years from its current sole-source supplier, United Launch Alliance. It will open up an additional 14 cores to competitive bidding, giving SpaceX the opportunity to bid with its Falcon rockets.

For smaller payloads, incumbent provider Orbital Sciences Corporation will face competition from SpaceX and Lockheed Martin Corporation for launch contracts worth up to $900 million.

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Minotaur Rockets Could Launch From Florida

SPACE FLORIDA PRESS RELEASE

Early this month, the Space Launch Division of the USAF Space and Missile Systems Center/Space Development and Test Wing (SDTW) announced the award of a $48 million “Spaceports 3” contract to provide Florida-based launch services for the federal government.

The Indefinite Delivery, Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) award reflects a potential value of up to $48 million for future Minotaur launches from Florida. The first part of this award, which will go into effect immediately (valued at $30,000), is a Task Order to develop a Logistics Strategy Plan for solid-propellant rocket launches from Space Launch Complex 46 (SLC-46) at Cape Canaveral, managed by Space Florida. This logistics plan would include specifics regarding infrastructure requirements for launch as well as facilities to be used to process future solid-fueled boosters and payloads.

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