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Orbital Sciences Buys Atlas 5 Launch from United Launch Alliance

By Caleb Henry | December 10, 2014
      ULA Atlas 5 MUOS

      An Atlas 5 rocket used for the U.S. Navy’s MUOS 1 satellite launch. Photo: United Launch Alliance.

      [Via Satellite 12-10-2014] Orbital Sciences has contracted United Launch Alliance (ULA) to conduct the next commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) using an Atlas 5 rocket. The mission is scheduled to take place in the fourth quarter of 2015 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

      Orbital Sciences has also included an option for a second Atlas 5 launch in 2016. Currently, the company has plans for three more resupply missions using an upgraded Antares rocket in the first, second and fourth quarters of 2016. Using a combination of Atlas 5 and upgraded Antares rockets, Orbital Sciences will consolidate the five remaining Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) missions into four, with no increase in cost to NASA. The company also does not expect any material adverse financial impacts in 2015 or future years through this plan.

      Orbital Sciences confirmed it has the necessary supplier contracts now in place to accelerate the implementation of a new propulsion system to replace the AJ-26 engines from Aerojet Rocketdyne. Vehicle integration and testing is scheduled to begin in mid-2015. Once upgraded, Antares will be capable of delivering 20 percent more cargo (such as food, equipment, experiments and SmallSats) to the ISS than before. The Atlas 5 will allow Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus capsule to carry 35 percent more cargo than previously planned 2015 CRS missions.

      Following the assessment of clean up, repair and reconstruction work needed for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Wallops Island facility, Orbital Sciences anticipates repairs will be substantially completed by fall 2015. Recertification to resume launches is anticipated before the end of 2015.