Orbital ATK-Designed and -Built Spacecraft Reveals Mysteries of the
Dawn Begins Next Phase of Multi-Billion Mile Interplanetary Mission
DULLES, Va.Mar. 6, 2015--
ATK, Inc. (NYSE:OA), a global leader in aerospace and defense
technologies, today announced a major milestone in a deep space
exploration mission aimed at uncovering the mysteries of the solar
system. NASA s Dawn
spacecraft has arrived at and is now orbiting the dwarf planet
Ceres. Dawn, designed and built by Orbital ATK, accomplished this feat
with the innovative use of solar electric ion propulsion, the world s
most advanced and efficient space propulsion technology. Located in the
main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres is the largest
unexplored world of the inner solar system. Now in its eighth year of a
nearly nine-year-long mission, Dawn has already advanced human
understanding of planetary formation by giant leaps with the data it has
returned over the last four years.
Orbital ATK s flight-proven technology and extensive space systems
experience played key roles in building the Dawn spacecraft and
integrating the ion propulsion system provided by the Jet Propulsion
Laboratory, said Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital ATK s Space
Systems Group. This technology is revolutionizing solar system
exploration and made Dawn s historic journey to two planetary bodies
possible. More than a decade ago, we committed to developing this
spacecraft in an innovative way to assure that it was reliable and
affordable. To see Dawn enter into this exciting science phase in fully
functional status after seven and a half years and several billion miles
of deep-space journey is a testament to the design and workmanship
skills of the JPL/Orbital ATK team.
Launched from Cape Canaveral in September 2007, Dawn has been traveling
toward Ceres since its September 2012 departure from Vesta, the second
most massive object in the main asteroid belt and the first destination
on this two-stop planetary mission. The spacecraft spent nearly 14
months orbiting and mapping Vesta, returning more than 30,000 images and
other measurements of the protoplanet.
Beginning in January, Dawn has returned increasingly sharper images of
Ceres, showing a heavily cratered surface with multiple intriguing,
bright features. Dawn s image quality now substantially exceeds the best
available from the ground-based W.M. Keck Observatory and NASA's Hubble
Space Telescope. By later this year, in its closest orbit around Ceres,
Dawn will return images more than 800 times the resolution of Hubble.
The images will provide mission scientists with a treasure trove of data
to understand how Ceres evolved so differently from Vesta.
The Dawn mission is the world s first chance to get an up-close look at
two bodies which date back to the formation of the solar system, but
evolved very differently, said Mike Miller, Orbital ATK vice president,
Science and Environmental Programs, Civil and Defense Satellite
Division. Ceres is thought to contain substantial water, perhaps up to
27 percent of its mass, a quantity roughly equivalent to the fresh water
on Earth. It is expected to be mostly in the form of ice, but there may
also be a liquid subsurface ocean. Dawn s detailed image and
compositional data will help us understand this very exciting prospect.
Orbital ATK s Space Systems Group designed and built Dawn at the
company s facilities in Dulles, Virginia. Measuring 65 feet in length
and weighing nearly 2,700 pounds at launch, Dawn incorporated features
of Orbital ATK s Earth science and commercial communication spacecraft
Dawn's mission is managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA's
Science Mission Directorate in Washington. Dawn is a project of the
directorate's Discovery Program, which is managed by NASA's Marshall
Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama. The University of California
at Los Angeles (UCLA) is responsible for overall Dawn mission science.
The German Aerospace Center, the Max Planck Institute for Solar System
Research, the Italian Space Agency and the Italian National
Astrophysical Institute are international partners on the mission team.
About Orbital ATK
Orbital ATK is a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies.
The company designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation
systems for customers around the world, both as a prime contractor and
merchant supplier. Its main products include launch vehicles and related
propulsion systems; missile products, subsystems and defense
electronics; precision weapons, armament systems and ammunition;
satellites and associated space components and services; and advanced
aerospace structures. Headquartered in Dulles, Virginia, Orbital ATK
employs more than 12,000 people in 20 states across the U.S. and in
several international locations. For more information, visit www.orbitalatk.com.
Source: Orbital ATK, Inc.
Orbital ATK, Inc.
Vicki Cox, 703-406-5663
Systems Group Public Relations
Public and Investor Relations