Antares Added To NASA Launch Contract

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WASHINGTON — NASA has added Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket to the NASA Launch Services (NLS) 2 contract the agency awarded the Dulles, Va.-based company and several other launch providers in 2010.

The NLS 2 contract is an indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contract that NASA uses to order launch services. An on-ramp provision allows new providers and launch vehicles to be added to the contract annually.

Orbital is developing the two-stage Antares — with NASA financial assistance — to launch the unmanned Cygnus space tug on cargo delivery missions to the international space station under a $1.9 billion NASA contract awarded in 2008. Orbital plans to conduct a hold-down test firing of the rocket’s first stage in late July or early August followed by a demonstration launch in August or September, Orbital officials told investors June 14.

Orbital’s space station resupply missions will be conducted on a commercial basis, outside the NLS 2 contract. Inclusion in NLS 2 contract puts Antares in the stable of vehicles eligible to compete to launch NASA scientific payloads provided they meet the agency’s reliability criteria.