The Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. does it all, from launch vehicles, to satellites and space systems, to advanced space programs. Its clientele encompasses the commercial, military and civil government sectors, including NASA, with whom it has secured a $1.9-billion contract to fly eight cargo missions to the International Space Station (ISS).
Open Orbital's catalog of space products and you'll find small- and medium-class rockets, along with launch services covering orbiting satellites, deep space probes and payload deliveries to high altitudes. The company plans to send its first rocket delivery van to the ISS late in 2012 [source: MSNBC].
Like others embarked on the rough road to space, the company has suffered its share of setbacks: In June 2011, an engine caught fire during a ground test and, in April of that year, NASA's Commercial Crew Development program bypassed funding its Prometheus space plane, which could force the company to back away from the project [source: Kramer and Chang].
Still, as the contenders in the new space race round the first turn, Orbital remains strong in the pack. By maintaining a stake in NASA's Orion crew capsule, for which it is developing a launch abort system, it has not only positioned itself well for future dealings with the space agency, it has also hedged its bets across public and private space sectors.
Orbital, a survivor of fickle space budgets since 1982, knows when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em. It's a lesson worth learning for any challenger who wants to survive and thrive in the new space age.