Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va., booked $395 million worth of new business during the first quarter of 2006, a period that also saw the company post a 15-percent gain in overall revenue compared to the previous year.

The new business booked during the first quarter included $220 million in new firm and options contracts, and the exercise of $175 million in contract options under existing contracts.

Revenues for the quarter ending March 31 came in at $192.1 million, up 15 percent from $167.1 million in first-quarter 2005. The biggest contributions to revenue came from launch vehicles ($78.7 million) and satellites and space-related systems ($107.5 million).

Net income was $8.8 million, compared to $6.2 million in first-quarter 2005.

Since the beginning of the year, Orbital has completed nine space missions and nine other space-related deliveries, said David W. Thompson, the company’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Those missions included five boost-vehicle missile interceptors, a Pegasus launch of three small scientific spacecraft for NASA’s Space Technology 5 program in March and the launch of six weather-monitoring satellites for Taiwan’s civil space agency aboard an Orbital Minotaur launch vehicle.

“Our production line is back to full speed after last year’s slowdown,” David Thompson said.

“2006 will showcase our launch vehicle production capability,” J.R. Thompson, the company’s chief operating officer, said during a conference call with analysts April 20, adding that 13 interceptor deliveries already are planned for the year. “But the real production activity is in the satellite and space systems division.”

Company officials also said they expect to announce details of their first commercial geostationary satellite contract of 2006 in the weeks ahead.

“Our satellite segment led the way with large increases in communications satellite revenues and operating profit, while our launch vehicles segment continued its solid performance,” David Thompson said.

Orbital captured about a third of the market share in terms of small satellites during 2005, and J.R. Thompson said they expect a similar percentage of slightly lower activity in that market in 2006

Overall, Orbital expects to bring in about $760 million in 2006 revenue, said Garrett Pierce, the company’s chief financial officer.

Company officials also noted that they are competing for contracts on some of NASA’s new human spaceflight programs.

NASA plans to award new contracts under its $500 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program this year. The U.S. space agency also is holding a major competition for the Crew Exploration Vehicle, the planned replacement for the space shuttle fleet.

Comments: mfrederick@space.com