Headlines > News > Orbital Awarded $135 Million Contract by NASA for ICESat-2 Earth Science Satellite Program

Orbital Awarded $135 Million Contract by NASA for ICESat-2 Earth Science Satellite Program

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Fri Sep 2, 2011 8:04 am via: Orbital
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Spacecraft to be Based on LEOStar-3 Platform; Company to Build and Test Satellite at Its Gilbert, AZ Satellite Manufacturing Facility

ICESat-2 Joins Four Other NASA Science Satellites Now in Production at Orbital

(Dulles, VA) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) has selected the company to design, build and test the Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) Earth science satellite. Scheduled for launch in 2016, ICESat-2 is the next-generation successor to the original ICESat satellite, which operated from 2003 to 2010. The contract award is valued at $135 million, including the spacecraft and associated options.

Orbital will base the ICESat-2 satellite on its LEOStar-3 platform, the same technology that is being used for NASA’s Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) spacecraft, which is currently being assembled and tested at the company’s Gilbert, Arizona satellite manufacturing facility. ICESat-2 will also be built and tested at the Gilbert location. Orbital is also in production on three science satellites for NASA at its Dulles, Virginia campus, including the Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR), Orbiting Carbon Observatory (OCO), and Gravity and Extreme Magnetism Small Explorer (GEMS) programs.

“Our selection by Goddard Space Flight Center to design, build and test the ICESat-2 spacecraft adds to our extensive and growing history of producing high-quality and reliable satellites for NASA’s Earth and space science programs,” said Mr. Mike Larkin, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Space Systems Group. “The ICESat-2 program will be a welcome addition to our NASA activities at the company’s Gilbert, Arizona facility, which currently includes work on the LDCM satellite and on national security satellites.”

About NASA’s ICESat-2 Program

ICESat-2 will use precision laser-ranging techniques to measure the topography of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets and the thickness of sea ice. The mission was recommended by the National Research Council in its 2007 decadal survey of NASA Earth science research priorities. ICESat-2 supports NASA’s Earth science program by helping scientists develop a better scientific understanding of the Earth system and its response to natural or human-induced changes.

From 2003 to 2010, the original ICESat mission provided multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balances as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It also provided topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. The next-generation program, ICESat-2 will continue the scientific data collection with these specific objectives:

• Quantifying polar ice-sheet contributions to recent and current sea-level change and linkages to climate conditions.
• Assessing regional signatures of ice-sheet changes to understand mechanisms driving those changes and improve predictive ice sheet models.
• Estimating sea-ice thickness to examine ice/ocean/atmosphere exchanges of energy, mass and moisture.
• Measuring vegetation canopy height as a basis for estimating large-scale biomass and biomass change.
• Enhancing the utility of other Earth observation systems through supporting measurements.

About the LEOStar-3 Platform

Orbital’s LEOStar-3 medium-class satellite platform on which the ICESat-2 spacecraft is based is a flight-proven design optimized for low-Earth orbit missions. Several previous NASA Earth and space science satellite programs have used the LEOStar-3, including the Swift and the Fermi astrophysics observatories that were launched in 2004 and 2008, and the LDCM satellite now in production. It has also served as the platform for the GeoEye-1 high-resolution commercial imaging satellite.

The LEOStar-3 design can accommodate a wide range of payloads enabling Orbital to serve civil government, military and intelligence, and commercial customers on short development cycles with an affordable satellite that offers precision pointing and high-data-rate capabilities.

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