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Orbital ATK (OA) Chosen As Newest Ally Of NASA For Space Exploration Under CIRAS Program

First Posted: Dec 02, 2016 03:00 AM EST
Cygnus Spacecraft Launch
Private-public collaboration between Orbital ATK and NASA has been made for the CIRAS space program.
(Photo : NASA/YouTube screenshot)

The Commercial Infrastructure for Robotic Assembly and Services (CIRAS) program was launched in September 2016 as a joint venture of Orbital ATK (OA), a privately owned enterprise and the Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) of NASA .

The program is aimed toward development of avant-garde technologies for efficient in-orbit manufacturing and congregation of space structures. This will help in coordinating robot and human-based space exploration programs, launching of exploratory satellites for meteorological and climatological research, reported SatelliteToday.

Orbital ATK owned Space Logistics LLC and will be functioning as the chief contractor of the joint program. It will work under the aegis of various NASA Research centers viz Langley Research Center, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and the Glenn Research Center.

The goal of the CIRAS program involves development of key technologies, which will contribute in future space missions of NASA. This incorporates development of solar powered space structures, precision robotic arms for connecting and disconnecting space structures and manufacture of high-power telescopes.

Acording to a recently published report in Space Daily, a resupply mission to International Space Station was successfully accomplished under the CIRAS program. The sixth cargo delivery mission (OA-5) was initiated by launching the Cygnus spacecraft on Nov. 17, 2016, from the Wallop Flight facility of NASA, at the Wallops Island, Virginia.

The Candadarm2 robotic arm of the International Space Station was used to release the Cygnus spacecraft and this whole procedure was successfully accomplished while the space station was flying at about 251 miles above the Pacific Ocean.

Subsequently, the ground controllers at the Glenn Research center launched the Saffire-II experiment and deployed the LEMUR CubeSats on Nov. 25, 2016. The four CubeSats released will be highly useful in meteorological research. Additionally, the Cygnus space craft also made a delivery of 5,300 pounds of vital supplies for the on-board astronauts.

As per the mission update provided by Orbital ATK, the Cygnus made a successful, destructive re-entry in to the Earth's atmosphere, over the Pacific Ocean near New Zealand, at 6.40 p.m. EST on Nov. 27, 2016. This marked the completion of OA-5 mission. After the success of this mission, scientists are now working hard and looking forward to the upcoming OA-7 mission, which is expected in the spring of 2017.

It is speculated that this private-public partnership program will set the benchmark for future space expeditions.

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