Dulles-based Orbital ATK Inc. has been awarded a second NASA contract to provide commercial cargo delivery and disposal services to and from the International Space Station.
The contract, valued at up to $1.5 billion, covers six initial cargo missions starting in 2019. Additional missions could be awarded in the 2021-2024 period based on the space station’s operational requirements. The mission will launch from Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island.
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) joined in making the contract announcement today.
“This is a big win for Virginia and space exploration,” the governor said. “As a result of collaboration with our federal partners in NASA and our congressional delegation, NASA will continue an important contract that brings our state to the national forefront in the commercial space business, creating jobs and strengthening Virginia’s new economy.”
The announcement comes after repairs were completed to the MARS center, which was damaged in October 2014 when a rocket lifting the Orbital ATK resupply vehicle exploded after liftoff.
“MARS is open for business and the return to space flight,” McAuliffe said.
For the upcoming missions, the Cygnus spacecraft can be carried into orbit by either the company’s Antares launch vehicle, which was upgraded following the launch failure, or United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.
The company said the choice allows NASA to better tailor missions for specific ISS operational requirements and demonstrates the flexibility of the Cygnus spacecraft for cargo supply to the ISS. “We are grateful for NASA’s continued confidence in our ability to provide reliable and affordable commercial cargo transportation services to the International Space Station,” David W. Thompson, Orbital ATK’s president and CEO, stated.
Orbital ATK has already delivered approximately 16,000 pounds of cargo to the space station in four missions since 2013. Its next resupply mission is scheduled for launch in March aboard an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL. Then, operations will return to Virginia, with a launch planned in May or June at Wallops Island.
Improvements made to the Cygnus spacecraft during the past year allow it to transport 40 percent more cargo than the previous design. The next mission will deliver 7,700 pounds of cargo to the ISS. Payloads include supplies, materials for scientific experiments, equipment and other items that are used by the astronauts in the space station.
“This announcement is great news for Orbital ATK, the Eastern Shore and all of Virginia,” Warner stated. “It means creating or retaining hundreds of high-skill jobs across the Commonwealth – from Orbital’s headquarters at Dulles to the Spaceport at Wallops Island – in support of scientific discovery and the space station mission.”
“This is a game-changing investment for the Commonwealth,” Kaine stated. “I was proud to help attract Orbital ATK to the Eastern Shore as governor, and I’m encouraged by the recovery MARS has made to return to normal operations. I look forward to many successful missions launched from Wallops Island in the years to come.”