ATK, Orbital continue to support merger plans
Things seem to be looking up for Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp. despite a failed rocket launch in October.
The company announced this week that it and Arlington-based Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) are moving forward with a $5 billion merger plans that would combine ATK’s aerospace and defense units with Orbital.
Orbital also said it has been awarded a NASA contract, valued at $185 million over five years, to operate the space agency’s Science Balloon Operations program.
“During the course of the last two weeks, both companies have diligently evaluated and analyzed information relating to the [failed rocket launch] and Orbital’s go-forward plan,” Mark DeYoung, president and CEO of ATK said in a statement. “We believe it was responsible and essential to conduct this special due diligence and as a result of our findings, management and our board of directors continue to endorse the previously announced transaction.”
On Oct. 28, Orbital attempted to launch an Antares rocket from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island. Seconds after blastoff, the rocket exploded into a fireball. The mission was supposed to deliver noncritical supplies to the space station.
Since then, the company has announced a go-forward plan to fulfill its $1.9 billion contract with NASA to transport cargo to and from the International Space Station. Since a preliminary investigation pointed to failure in one of the rocket’s engines, Orbital says it will likely stop using the refurbished Soviet-era AJ26 engines in its rockets.
Orbital and ATK said in a statement that they will hold separate, stockholder meetings in connection with the proposed merger on Jan. 27. The transaction is expected to close in February and is subject to customary closing conditions, including regulatory and stockholder approvals.
Under the new NASA contract, Orbital’s Technical Services Division in Greenbelt, Md., will provide program management, mission planning, engineering services and field operations for the balloon program, which supports high-altitude scientific research. Orbital will conduct balloon missions from the U.S. and abroad, with approximately 15 flights per year. The work will primarily be conducted at the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility in Palestine, Texas.