[SatNews] We look forward to playing an important role in helping to maintain Wallops Flight Facility’s position as the world leader in scientific ballooning and suborbital space and Earth science research.”
Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) announced its Technical Services Division (TSD) in Greenbelt, Maryland was awarded a contract by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to operate the space agency’s Science Balloon Operations program. The contract, which was won in a competitive selection process, is valued up to approximately $185 million over its five-year term. The NASA Balloon Operations Contract (NBOC) is administered by the Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) in Wallops Island, Virginia. You can learn more about the program here.
Orbital’s TSD will provide program management, mission planning, engineering services and field operations for the scientific balloon program, which has a 50-plus year history of support for high-altitude scientific research. The NBOC is executed primarily from the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas. Orbital TSD personnel will conduct balloon missions from locations in the U.S. and around the world, with flight rates of approximately 15 per year.
Mr. John Pullen, Orbital’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of its Technical Services Division, said, “Orbital is honored to have been awarded the Science Balloon Operations contract by NASA. We are excited to be part of an advanced research and technology program with a distinguished legacy of providing critical scientific data for experimenters around the world. We look forward to playing an important role in helping to maintain Wallops Flight Facility’s position as the world leader in scientific ballooning and suborbital space and Earth science research.”
Over more than five decades that scientific research has been conducted using high-altitude balloons, there has been a vast increase in experiment sophistication, flight frequency and mission durations. The growth in balloon size, payload mass and electronics support has been dramatic, increasing from an average payload mass of approximately 400 pounds in the 1960’s to payloads that commonly weigh 5,000 pounds and are routinely carried aloft by balloons of 20 to 30 million cubic feet today. The NBOC supports scientific research in areas such as X-ray, ultra-violet, optical and infrared astronomy, as well as in atmospheric conditions, magnetospherics, micrometeorite particles and cosmic microwave background studies. In addition to the balloon operations conducted in the United States, international operations have been carried out in Australia, South America, Europe, Asia and Antarctica.
The NBOC contract adds to Orbital’s large presence at WFF, which also includes the prime contractor role for NASA’s Sounding Rocket Operations Program-2 (NSROC-2), and from which the company assembles, tests and launches Antares and Minotaur space launch vehicles. With the addition of the NBOC program, Orbital will maintain a permanent WFF-based workforce of approximately 250 employees, with substantial influx of other employees and contractors during space launch operations.
Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides research rocket and satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories. More information about Orbital can be found at http://www.orbital.com. Follow the company on Twitter @OrbitalSciences.