Orbital ATK, Inc. (NYSE:OA) has launched its Cygnus spacecraft aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch vehicle with approximately 7,900 pounds (3,600 kilograms) of cargo and small satellites that will be deployed directly from the spacecraft, the company said.
The launch marks the beginning of the company´s fifth operational cargo resupply mission (OA-6) for NASA, and the first Cygnus to conduct scientific experiments onboard the spacecraft. Cygnus will deliver vital equipment, supplies and experiments to astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as part of its Commercial Resupply Services-1 (CRS-1) contract with NASA.
Lift-off took place on March 22 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Following a 21-minute ascent, the S.S. Rick Husband Cygnus spacecraft was successfully deployed into its intended orbit approximately 144 miles above the Earth, inclined at 51.6 degrees to the equator.
Orbital ATK´s engineering team confirmed that reliable communications have been established and that the vehicle´s solar arrays are fully deployed, providing the necessary electrical power to operate the spacecraft.
Under the CRS contract with NASA, Orbital ATK will deliver approximately 59,000 pounds (26,800 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS over 10 missions through 2018.
The OA-6 mission allows Cygnus to demonstrate its unique flexibility as a spacecraft with capability to launch atop multiple launch vehicles and serve as a platform for science experiments. Once it departs the ISS, Cygnus will enter a specific orbit to deploy five CubeSats, utilizing a NanoRacks CubeSat deployer.
Orbital ATK provides aerospace and defense technologies. The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and merchant supplier. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK employs approximately 12,000 people in 18 states across the US and in several international locations.