Orbital Sciences Corp. will continue to handle NASA's sounding rocket programme under a $125m contract awarded 30 July.

The total potential value of the new five-year indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity cost-plus incentive fee contract could be up to $310 million, the company says. Orbital also was a major contractor on the original Sounding Rocket Operations Contract, which ran from 1999 to 2009.

Orbital's Technical Services Division (TSD) will coordinate and implement the NASA programme and providing services and supplies as necessary for individual missions and projects. Services include designing, fabricating, integrating, and performing flight qualification testing of sub-orbital payloads; providing launch vehicles and associated hardware; and conducting various activities associated with subsequent mission launch operations.

Orbital TSD will work with NASA to develop and implement advanced sounding rocket capabilities to be used on the program. Sounding rockets are smaller-sized launch vehicles that conduct suborbital missions for high-altitude scientific and atmospheric research.

The majority of the work will be done at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Orbital also has a major launch site development project underway with NASA and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport to prepare Wallops to accommodate final assembly and launch operations for the company's new Taurus II medium-class space launch vehicle and Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft for missions to the International Space Station. Initial Taurus II launches from Wallops are scheduled to begin in 2011. These projects and the new sounding rocket contract will boost the number of Orbital staff and contractors at Wallops to more than 250 employees, the company says.

Source: Flight International