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Unmated Operations Resume for Successful Orbital Express Mission
June 18, 2007
BOULDER, Colo., June 18, 2007 – The nation's first autonomous satellite servicing demonstration has resumed unmated demonstration activities as the successful Orbital Express mission between Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp.’s Next Generation Satellite and Commodities Spacecraft (NextSat/CSC), and Boeing’s Autonomous Space Transfer and Robotic Orbiter (ASTRO,) continues its three month mission. Both satellites for the Orbital Express mission were built for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Technologically advanced feats accomplished since launch on March 8 include:
- Spacecraft separation of 10 meters, followed by one hour of formation flying before successful re-mating. Both satellites operated autonomously, almost exclusively without the need for ground control.
- Multiple successful transfers of hydrazine and the battery orbital replacement unit between ASTRO and NextSat using ASTRO’s robotic arm. This marked the first time hardware has been autonomously transferred between unmanned spacecraft on orbit.
These activities pave the way for the final goal of achieving separation to a distance of 7 km and re-mating, to conclude the nominal demonstration.
The Orbital Express mission will help determine the feasibility of extending the life of future on-orbit spacecraft by refueling or even upgrading them in space. The mission was designed to include demonstrations of short range separation, proximity operations, and capture.
“The innovative technologies employed on the Orbital Express mission demonstrate and support goals to reduce costs, improve safety, and extend the life of satellites by five, 10, or even 15 years,” said David L. Taylor, president and CEO of Ball Aerospace.
Ball Aerospace adapted significant elements from its highly successful Deep Impact spacecraft in building NextSat/CSC, including software, command and data handling, and power control. Other elements were derived from the Ball Commercial Platform, such as the narrow-band telecom architecture from the Ball-built CloudSat spacecraft, launched in 2006.
Images available at: http://www.darpa.mil/orbitalexpress/mission_updates.html
Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp. supports critical missions of important national agencies such as the Department of Defense, NASA, NOAA and other U.S. government and commercial entities. The company develops and manufactures spacecraft, advanced instruments and sensors, components, data exploitation systems and RF solutions for strategic, tactical and scientific applications. Over the past 50 years, Ball Aerospace has been responsible for numerous technological and scientific ‘firsts’ and acts as a technology innovator for the aerospace market.
Ball Corporation is a supplier of high-quality metal and plastic packaging products for beverage, food and household customers, and of aerospace and other technologies and services, primarily for the U.S. government. Ball Corporation and its subsidiaries employ more than 15,500 people worldwide and reported 2006 sales of $6.6 billion.
This release contains "forward-looking" statements concerning future events and financial performance. Words such as “expects,” “anticipates,” “estimates” and similar expressions are intended to identify forward-looking statements. Such statements are subject to risks and uncertainties which could cause actual results to differ materially from those expressed or implied. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise. Key risks and uncertainties are summarized in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, including Exhibit 99.2 in our Form 10-K, which are available at our Web site and at www.sec.gov. Factors that might affect our packaging segments include fluctuation in consumer and customer demand and preferences; availability and cost of raw materials, including recent significant increases in resin, steel, aluminum and energy costs, and the ability to pass such increases on to customers; competitive packaging availability, pricing and substitution; changes in climate and weather; crop yields; industry productive capacity and competitive activity; failure to achieve anticipated productivity improvements or production cost reductions, including those associated with our beverage can end project; the German mandatory deposit or other restrictive packaging laws; changes in major customer or supplier contracts or loss of a major customer or supplier; and changes in foreign exchange rates, tax rates and activities of foreign subsidiaries. Factors that might affect our aerospace segment include: funding, authorization, availability and returns of government and commercial contracts; and delays, extensions and technical uncertainties affecting segment contracts. Factors that might affect the company as a whole include those listed plus: accounting changes; successful or unsuccessful acquisitions, joint ventures or divestitures; integration of recently acquired businesses; regulatory action or laws including tax, environmental and workplace safety; governmental investigations; technological developments and innovations; goodwill impairment; antitrust, patent and other litigation; strikes; labor cost changes; rates of return projected and earned on assets of the company's defined benefit retirement plans; pension changes; reduced cash flow; interest rates affecting our debt; and changes to unaudited results due to statutory audits or other effects.