Orbital ATK has inked a $98 million agreement with Lockheed Martin to provide the launch-abort motor for the Orion, a manned spacecraft in development for NASA.
Orbital, a publicly traded company based in Dulles, Va., will manufacture the launch-abort motor at plants in Magna, Promontory and Clearfield, Utah.
Orion’s launch-abort system is similar to an ejection seat in a fighter jet. In an emergency, the abort system would lift the capsule and crew away from the rocket instantly, Orbital said in announcing the deal July 7.
“Orbital ATK is proud to be a key contributor to the Orion program and to astronaut safety,” said Fred Brasfield, vp of NASA propulsion programs at Orbital. “The benefit of using a solid launch abort motor is being able to transport the crew far from harm’s way in milliseconds, should the need arise.”
The Lockheed Martin agreement funds the launch-abort motor through the second launch of Orion, planned for 2019. NASA hasn’t set a firm date for a first Orion launch.
Orbital shares (NYSE: ATK) were off modestly in midday trading, despite news of the sizable deal. The announcement followed by one day word that Zacks had lowered its rating to “sell” on the stock, which was trading at about $71 mid-session with a 50-day moving average of $75.35.
There continues to be a wide range of ratings on the shares by various Wall Street firms, including a “buy” rating from Jefferies.