Orbital’s strong performance benefiting space industry partners

by Chris Bergin

Orbital announced their third quarter earnings for 2013 on Thursday, providing an overview of a company that is generating good profit margins and strong free cash flow. The quarter saw the second successful launch of the Antares rocket and the debut of their Cygnus spacecraft – with several other space industry partners benefiting in their success.

Orbital Upbeat:

Orbital, an American space industry stalwart, published their “Third Quarter 2013 Financial Results” – listing their progress via a public release on Thursday.

While the release was full of financial details aimed more at the markets than the average space flight follower, the overall message was positive, showing Orbital continue to be in a healthy financial state.  *The full release can be viewed here*

With a deep history of not just launching payloads, but building them too, the company has been the developer and manufacturer of small and medium-class Space Systems for the past three decades, serving customers in Commercial, National Security and Civil Government Markets.

As such, their operational highlights of late cover a wide range of space systems and missions.

LADEE“In the third quarter of 2013, the company carried out six major space missions and launched four research rockets,” noted the release.  “Orbital carried out the inaugural flight of the Minotaur V rocket, which successfully launched NASA’s LADEE lunar orbiting spacecraft.  The Minotaur V launch was the 24th mission for the Minotaur family of rockets since 2000, all of which have been successful.

“In addition, Orbital’s missile defense interceptor rocket was successfully launched in support of a U.S. government test of the long-range Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system.  The company also carried out the first two Coyote naval target missile launches for the Australian Navy and launched four scientific research rockets for NASA.”

However, the flagship mission for Orbital was the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration mission that included the second successful launch of the company’s Antares medium-class space launch vehicle from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and the first deployment of the company’s new Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft.

Z5The Cygnus spacecraft successfully berthed with the ISS on September 29 and is due to depart from the station on October 22.

“Orbital generated good profit margins and strong free cash flow in the third quarter, even though revenues were lower on reduced satellite production activity,”  noted Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

The company also successfully completed several important operational events during the quarter, including the second successful launch of our Antares medium-class rocket and the first flight of the Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft.

“In addition, Orbital received about $450 million in new orders and option exercises, boosting year-to-date new business volume to approximately $1.75 billion.”

Z4Less known is the benefit felt by their numerous partners, ranging from Rocketdyne Aerojet – who provide the AJ-26s main engines for Antares, ATK – who provide the upper stage power via their Castor motors, through to Thales Alenia Space in Italy – who manufacture the Pressurised Cargo Module for the Cygnus spacecraft.

Other associated companies  include NanoRacks, LLC – who announced it has now fulfilled over one hundred customer payloads delivered to space via the berthing of Cygnus during its ORD-D mission.

Since its founding in 2009 NanoRacks has realized a total of 109 space station payloads, marking the company as the market leader in low earth orbit utilization.

Z6A total of 11 of their customer payloads rode to the International Space Station on Cygnus.

“We are proud that Orbital’s first ISS mission brought us over the century mark,” said NanoRacks’ CEO Jeff Manber. “We are excited to be part of the new era of commercial space science and research on the International Space Station (ISS). Our customers are pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

“We look forward to working with NASA and the other ISS partners to reach the next 100 payloads.”

Preparations are already in full swing for the next flight of the Cygnus, this time on the first Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission. The ORB-1 (CRS-1) mission is currently set to launch on December 15 – the first of eight CRS missions to the ISS.

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“The company also plans to launch a Minotaur I rocket for the U.S. Air Force and deploy up to three commercial communications satellites,” Orbital added. “In addition, two Coyote naval target missiles and four or five research rockets are expected to be launched.  In total, by year end Orbital expects to have carried out space missions or product deliveries to customers at a pace of approximately one per week, making 2013 one of the busiest years in the company’s history.”

Z4In aiding the salvo of Cygnus missions, Andrews Space (Andrews) recently noted they had completed on-time delivery of four more Cargo Module Power Units (CMPUs) to Orbital.

The CMPUs provide up to 150 Watts of 28VDC payload power to mid-deck locker payloads destined for the ISS aboard the vehicle – and will debut on ORB-1 mission.

“We successfully met Orbital’s schedule and were even able to accelerate the last two flight units to deliver ahead of schedule,” said Melissa Wuerl, Director of Programs and Business Development for Andrews Space.

All Andrews products and components are built domestically using Andrews’ AS9100C certified quality procedures for spaceflight hardware.

“Orbital is very pleased to utilize innovative small businesses like Andrews to support the Cygnus program. Andrews has delivered quality hardware on schedule that is critical to providing power to support various payloads on future cargo resupply missions,” said Frank DeMauro, Cygnus Program Manager for Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Two Orbital satellites are currently in launch preparation for rides on the next two SpaceX Falcon 9 v.1.1 rockets, namely SES-8 and Thaicom-6. Both launches will take place with a month of each other – should current schedules hold – from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

(Images: via L2’s Antares/Cygnus Section – Containing presentations, videos, images – including 100s of mbs of unreleased ORB-D hi-res photos – interactive high level updates and more, with additional images via Orbital).

(Click here: http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/l2/ – to view how you can support NSF and access the best space flight content on the entire internet).

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