WASHINGTON — Orbital Sciences Corp. is developing an experimental spacecraft platform that can host multiple payloads in various orbits under a $32 million contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, the company announced Oct. 24.
The maneuverable platform is based on the Air Force-developed Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) ring, which enables the service’s workhorse Atlas 5 and4 rockets to carry multiple piggyback payloads. Orbital’s ESPA Augmented Geostationary Laboratory Experiment (EAGLE) Platform development contract runs through August 2017.
The Pentagon announced the contract award to Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Aug. 23 after a bid protest by Millennium Space Systems of Torrance, Calif., was denied by the U.S. Government Accountability Office Aug. 17. Millennium filed its protest May 18 after being notified April 17 that it had not been selected, the congressional watchdog agency said on its website.
The low-cost EAGLE Platform will be able to operate in geosynchronous, geostationary transfer or low Earth orbit, Orbital said in its press release. The platform is expected to host six payloads for at least one year in geosynchronous orbit, the company said.
“The customer’s initial design requirements were to be able to accommodate four payloads, but our innovative design allowed us to package all of the required equipment inside the ESPA ring, which opened up two additional ports, allowing for a total of six payloads to be flown,” Jean Floyd, Orbital’s senior vice president and deputy general manager for advanced programs, said in a prepared statement. “By leveraging our flight-tested and reliable components, we delivered a system design that will provide our customer with exceptional value by exceeding their initial requirements.”