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MDA to Provide Capture Interface for Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus Freighter

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
January 19, 2010
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MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd., a provider of essential information solutions, announced today that it has received a $2.4M (USD) contract from Orbital Sciences Corporation to provide a critical interface that will enable capture and mating of the Cygnus cargo delivery spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The contract also contains an option to purchase additional units for follow-on operational missions worth at least $4.0M (USD).

The Cygnus spacecraft is being developed by Orbital under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Space Act Agreement with NASA. A demonstration flight is scheduled for early 2011 with eight subsequent operational missions to be conducted by Orbital between 2011 and 2015 under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program.

Cygnus in-orbit operations will include autonomous close proximity operations to the ISS, but the spacecraft does not automatically berth with the station. It will be outfitted with MDA’s power and video grapple fixture in order for Canadarm2 to grapple the free-floating spacecraft. The grapple fixture is also the life-line to the spacecraft, providing power and data to keep systems in the Cygnus module fully powered. This proprietary interface is the industry standard that allows free-flyer spacecraft such as Cygnus and HTV to be captured by Canadarm2 and then mate to the ISS.

Steve Oldham, MDA’s vice president responsible for this business, commented, “MDA’s technology is a critical interface that will continue to support both US commercial and Japanese ISS resupply missions through the life of the space station.”

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