Orbital Sciences Corporation (commonly referred to as Orbital) was an American company specializing in the design, manufacture and launch of small- and medium- class space and rocket systems for commercial, military and other government customers.
Originally Orbital was founded and incorporated in 1982 by three friends who had met earlier while at Harvard Business School—David W. Thompson, Bruce Ferguson and Scott Webster.
In 1985, Orbital procured its first contract for providing up to four Transfer Orbital Stage (TOS) vehicles to NASA. In 1987, the seeds for the ORBCOMM constellation were planted when Orbital began investigating a system using Low Earth orbit satellites to collect data from remote locations. In 1988, Orbital acquired Space Data Corporation in Arizona- one of the world’s leading suppliers of suborbital rockets- thereby broadening its rocket business and manufacturing capabilities. This was followed by the opening of a new facility in Chandler, Arizona in 1989 to house the company’s expanding rocket business.
In 1990, the company successfully carried out eight space missions, highlighted by the initial launch of the Pegasus rocket, the world’s first privately developed space launch vehicle.
In the early 2000s, Orbital continued expanding its missile defense systems business with a $900 million award to develop, build, test and support interceptor booster vehicles. In 2006 Orbital conducted its 500th mission since the company’s founding with a diverse portfolio of products that included satellites, launch vehicles, and missile defense systems.
In 2007, the first interplanetary spacecraft built by Orbital, Dawn was launched on an eight-year, three-billion-mile journey to the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. A major milestone in the company’s history was in 2008 when it received a long-term NASA contract to provide cargo transportation services to and from the International Space Station (ISS) with a value of approximately $1.9 billion for missions from 2011 to 2015. Orbital is currently on-track to deliver on this contract with its Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rocket following the success of Cygnus Orb-D1 and Cygnus CRS Orb-1.
On April 29, 2014, Orbital Sciences announced that it had entered into a definitive agreement with Alliant Techsystems to combine Orbital and ATK’s Aerospace and Defense (A&D) Groups to create a $4.5 billion (combined calendar year 2013 annual revenue), 13000-person company. The new company will be called Orbital ATK, Inc., and will serve U.S. and international customers with leading positions in the markets for space launch vehicles and propulsion systems, tactical missiles and defense electronics, satellites and space systems, armament systems and ammunition, and commercial and military aircraft structures and related components.
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