Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) and Skybox Imaging announced today the two have come to agreement on a commercial launch contract that will carry six high-resolution imaging and video-capable spacecraft into low-Earth orbit beginning in the latter part of 2015. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
"We are very pleased to have been selected by Skybox Imaging for this exciting opportunity," noted David Thompson, CEO and chairman of Orbital, in a press release. "As fellow participants in the expansion of the commercial space industry, Orbital and Skybox share similar values of innovation, affordability and reliability, which make this partnership a perfect fit."
The agreement will launch the Skybox satellites on Orbital's Minotaur-C space vehicle, which is the commercial variation of the Minotaur launch vehicle that is used to serve the U.S. government. In total there have been 25 Minotaur launches overseen by the Launch Systems Group at Orbital since 2000.
The Orbital press release highlighted the Minotaur-C rocket will have many similarities to its existing product line, including the SkySat satellite dispenser, electrical power system, flight termination system, navigation sensors, and other features. In addition, its propulsion system will use four ATK rocket motors, which have been used on the other small space launch vehicles from Orbital and its Boost Vehicle, which is the missile defense interceptor.
Thompson concluded by adding, "We have offered options for additional launch services to support the development of Skybox's business, and we are looking forward to the opportunity to forge a long-term, multi-launch relationship with their team."
The six 120-kilogram Skybox Imaging optical Earth observation satellites will be launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.
Mountain View, Calif.-based Skybox says each satellite is expected to operate for more than six years. Space Systems/Loral of Palo Alto, Calif., is building 13 Skybox satellites. The company is evaluating a single-satellite launch late this year and hosting a competition for the remaining six.
Skybox says its satellites will be "placed into a 500-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit offering images with a ground resolution better than 80 centimeters at nadir, with an eight-kilometer-wide swath." Skybox’s first satellite, SkySat-1, was launched in November.