The Air Force on July 2 awarded Orbital ATK [OA] a $24 million firm-fixed-price contract for Operationally Responsive Space-5 (ORS-5) launch services, according to a Defense Department statement.

The company will provide launch services required to launch the ORS-5 “SensorSat” space vehicle to the desired orbit. This includes planning, analysis, design, development, production, integration and testing. The launch for ORS-5 is expected in the second quarter of 2017 and Orbital ATK will select the launch location.

Orbital's Cygnus capsule and Antares rocket Oct. 28 prior to failure at NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility. Photo: NASA.
Orbital’s Cygnus capsule and Antares rocket Oct. 28 prior to failure at NASA’s Wallops Island Flight Facility. Photo: NASA.

Only one company responded to the Air Force’s competitive procurement for ORS-5. Orbital ATK spokeswoman Trina Helquist declined comment Monday, saying she was awaiting Air Force approval to release further information. A spokeswoman for Spaceflight Industries, a company that could provide launch services at a level of ORS-5, declined to comment for this story.

According to the March ORS-5 technical requirements document (TRD) posted on Federal Business Opportunities (FBO), the ORS-5 space vehicle consists of the spacecraft bus, the sensor, a Mark II motorized lightband and a Moog [MOG] Softride system. ORS-5 is a 160 kilogram space vehicle that the Air Force wants inserted into an orbit inclined at -1.0 degrees to +1.0 degrees with a preferred inclination of zero degrees. The Air Force also wants the space vehicle to be placed in an orbit at an altitude between 520 km and 670 km.

Orbital ATK has three different launch vehicles: Antares, Minotaur and Pegasus. Pegasus is launched from the company’s Stargazer L-1011 carrier aircraft and has performed 42 missions from six different launch sites worldwide since 1990, the company says on its website. Orbital ATK’s Minotaur ground-launched rockets combine Pegasus upper stages with either government-supplied or commercially-available first-stage rocket motors to boost larger payloads to orbit.

Orbital ATK’s Minotaur IV, V and VI rockets combine decommissioned Peacekeeper ICBM rocket motors with the company’s avionics and fairings to provide increased lifting capacity for government-sponsored payloads. Orbital ATK also has Antares, but Antares has been out of commission since October when it exploded shortly after liftoff at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island, Va. Orbital ATK hopes to have a re-engined Antares return to service by March (Defense Daily, July 1).

The Air Force said in its original April 2014 request for information (RFI) that it wanted a total fly-away cost of less than $20 million for ORS-5. The ORS-5 mission will develop enablers and demonstrate principles that would reduce non-recurring engineering risk for the Space Based Surveillance System (SBSS) follow-on program (Defense Daily; Sept. 22, 2014).