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Orbital wins $75 million NASA contract

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Orbital Sciences Corp., a space technology company in Dulles, has been selected by NASA to design, manufacture, integrate and test a new satellite that will perform a full-sky search for exoplanets around nearby stars, the company announced Wednesday in a news release. The four-year contract is valued at about $75 million.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) satellite program will be executed at Orbital's satellite production and testing facility in Dulles.

The mission of the TESS spacecraft is to provide prime exoplanet candidates for further characterization by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST), as well as other large ground-based and space-based telescopes in the future. The planned launch of the TESS spacecraft in mid-2017 is matched to JWST's scheduled launch in 2018.

The TESS mission will perform an all-sky survey using an array of telescopes to discover exoplanets orbiting nearby stars and will seek to identify habitable, Earth-like planets. TESS also will further the study of small exoplanets, first uncovered by NASA's Kepler spacecraft, by examining small planets that surround the sky's brightest stars.

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