The Department of Defense issued 17 new contracts Thursday, worth roughly $413.4 million in aggregate. Most of the larger contracts went to privately held construction firms, but one of the more interesting contracts went to Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB).

Best-known as a launcher of satellites into space for the government, Orbital won an entirely different kind of a contract Thursday -- a $29.9 million contract for full rate production of eight GQM-163A Coyote Supersonic Sea Skimming Target base vehicles, plus associated hardware, kits and production support, for the U.S. Navy, the government of Australia, and the government of Japan.

Sea-skimming cruise missiles are among the most-feared threats facing warships, and to counter this threat, the Navy needs targets to practice shooting at as it develops new defenses. Orbital was originally awarded the contract to develop the Coyote sea skimmer in June 2000, and has since won contracts to build a total of 80 of the missiles. The Coyote is built using decommissioned U.S. nuclear missile launchers, plus off-the-shelf hardware and technology, to cobble together "dummy" cruise missile that can then be used for target practice.

Under Thursday's contract, Orbital will be building five Coyotes for the Navy, two for Australia, and one for Japan, and is expected to have all eight missiles delivered by September 2016.