Orbital Sciences makes low-Earth-orbit satellites and other spacecraft for communications, science and technology research, and national security purposes. Orbital Sciences also manufactures satellite launch vehicles, as well as interceptors (to stop missile attacks) and target launch vehicles that test missile defense systems. Its advanced space programs division develops and supports human space flight, space exploration, and launch systems and satellites primarily used for national security programs. In mid-2014, Orbital and Alliant Techsystems agreed to combine their Aerospace and Defense Groups under the name Orbital ATK.
Change in Company Type
Orbital and Alliant Techsystems agreed to merge their Aerospace and Defense Groups in mid-2014, in a $5 billion transaction that will create Orbital ATK, a defense and aviation systems developer with a combined $4.5 billion in revenue.
Through the satellite and space systems segment, 38% of revenue, Orbital Sciences is a major provider of small and medium-class satellites. The some 140 satellites produced by the company since its founding in 1982 have completed almost a thousand years of operations in orbit. The segment added advanced medium-class defense and scientific satellites with the 2010 acquisition of General Dynamics' satellite business. The segment's satellites are divided into several groups: communications (which includes the GEOStar), science and environmental, imaging and defense, hosted payloads, and grounds systems and customer support.
The launch vehicles segment represents 33% of revenue. The segment's space launch vehicles, which put satellites that weigh up to 4,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit, include the Pegasus, Taurus, and Minotaur. The medium-capacity Antares -- which is intended to later serve the International Space Station (ISS) -- is being developed to launch spacecraft that weigh 12,000 pounds. Providing long-, medium-, and short-range rockets, the target launch vehicles group completed more than a dozen successful target missions in 2011.
Accounting for 29% of revenue, the advanced space programs segment developed the Commercially Hosted Infrared Payload sensor that was launched as a secondary payload on Orbital's SES-2 communications satellite for the US Air Force. This segment is also readying the Cygnus spacecraft, which will be launched by the Antares rocket, for transporting cargo to the ISS.
Sales and Marketing
The US government and its contractors account for about 71% of the company's sales.
To fill a hole left by the retirement of the Space Shuttle, NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) has contracted with Orbital to undertake eight missions for the transport of cargo to the ISS. Competitor Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) already demonstrated its ability to transport cargo to the ISS in May 2012 when it successfully launched a capsule that rendezvoused with the ISS and then splashed down intact in the Pacific. To fulfill its own contract with NASA, Orbital plans to use the Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft that it is creating through NASA's COTS program, a "pay for performance" partnership between private industry and the government -- that is, NASA makes payments only when performance-based milestones are met.