Space


ORBEX ["ORBital EXpress"]

Peter H. Diamandis, a communications and aerospace entrepreneur, founded International MicroSpace, Inc. (IMI) in 1989. This privately held commercial launch company which was later sold to CTA Incorporated. Diamandis also serves as the Founder and Chairman of the X PRIZE Foundation, a $10M international competition for the first private passenger carrying spaceships.

OrbEx was to be a small all-solid vehicle. The firm got a contract for SDIO MSTI 4 payload launch, with options for another 9 launches. The first launch was initially planned for 1994, with a cost per launch estimated at $ 10-15 M. The first launch for SDIO, MISTI-4 payload, priced at $14.7 M, with the contract signed July 1992. CTA had a contract with BMDO for a launch on a small "ORBital EXpress" vehicle. However, that contract has been cancelled, and CTA put the project on indefinate hold because of a glut of small launchers.

CTA Launch Services (CTALS) (formerly International MicroSpace, Inc.) has completed the design of ORBEX 7E, the first member of the ORBEX expendable launch vehicles family that CTALS was developing to launch small and medium sized-satellites into low earth orbits. Orbex-7E uses the Castor-4BXL, Orbus-7S and Orbus-7S motors. CTALS has also completed preliminary configuration studies on other members of the family.

Alaska Science and Technology Foundation [ASTF] awarded a grant to CTALS in August 1991. The launch vehicle was referred to as "ORBITAL EXPRESS" in the proposal. CTALS changed the vehicle name to ORBEX after a competitor obtained a legal injunction prohibiting CTALS from using the aforementioned name on the grounds that it was close to their company name.

The proposal envisioned using flight-proven sounding rocket technology and state-of-the-art avionics and control system to develop a low cost, reliable, launch vehicle for deploying micro class satellites into near earth orbits. The proposal also envisioned launching satellites with polar or high orbital inclination requirements from Alaska's Poker Flat Research Range.

Alaska's commercial launch site was very closely identified with IMI and use of IMI's OrbEx launch vehicle, but by 1993 IMI was having severe financial problems.

Final Analysis Inc. was founded in 1992 and is based in Greenbelt Maryland. FAI provides design development assembly and mission analysis services for small spacecraft and launchers. FAI proposed deploying a 26-satellite constellation for data services, and to that end has launched FAISAT-1 [January 195] and FAISAT-2 [October 1997]. FAI has abandoned the design of its own, small satellite launcher, ORBEX ["ORBital EXpress"].




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