Orbital Launches 25th Coyote Supersonic Sea-Skimming Target Vehicle for U.S. Navy

Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) recently carried out the 25th launch of its Coyote supersonic sea-skimming target (SSST) vehicle for the U.S. Navy.

In a mission that included the launch of two Coyote missiles, known as a “stream raid,” Orbital successfully supported the Navy’s ongoing ship self-defense exercises that are designed to counter potential threats from high-speed, low altitude and highly maneuverable anti-ship cruise missiles. The latest mission was conducted from Hawaii, during which two Coyotes were rail-launched from the coast, executed their planned flight pattern and were successfully engaged by a U.S. Navy ship.

The Coyote program has matured from an early development program, through low-rate production and test, to now being a fully operational system that provides a critical capability to the Navy for their ship self-defense exercises using a very capable target vehicle,” said Mr. Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group.

As further evidence of its operational status, we will soon support our first international mission when we participate in a defensive exercise with the French Navy. The Coyote is a low-cost and highly effective target capable of supporting important naval exercises not only for the U.S. Navy, but for allied naval forces as well,” Mr. Grabe he added.

The Coyote program is managed by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), based at the Patuxent River Naval Air Station in Maryland. The target missile design integrates a four-inlet, solid-fuel ducted-rocket ramjet propulsion system into a compact missile airframe 18 feet long and 14 inches in diameter. Ramjet supersonic takeover speed is achieved using a decommissioned Navy MK 70 solid rocket motor for the first stage. Rail-launched from naval test and training ranges, the highly maneuverable Coyote achieves cruise speeds of over Mach 2.5 following the separation of the MK 70 first-stage booster. The range of the target vehicle system is approximately 50 nautical miles at altitudes of less than 20 feet above the sea surface.

Orbital also has designed and flight-tested a “high-diver” variant of the Coyote missile. During the flight test, the vehicle achieved an altitude of 35,000 feet, traveled at Mach 3.3 and approached its target point at a 40-degree downward angle.

Orbital was awarded an initial development contract in 2000 to meet the Navy’s requirement for an affordable SSST system to simulate high-speed anti-ship cruise missiles for fleet training and weapon systems research, development, test and evaluation. Orbital and the Navy completed the development phase of the program with five successful test flights, the last of which took place in April 2005.

Since that time, Orbital has received multiple orders from the Navy under low-rate initial production and full-rate production contracts. Total orders for the program currently stand at 89 units (including the early test and development vehicles), of which 53 have been delivered to the customer. Orbital has also supported 23 consecutive successful operational or test launches.

Orbital is developing and manufacturing the Coyote vehicles at its launch vehicle engineering and production facility in Chandler, Arizona. Orbital’s major subcontractors include Aerojet Corporation in Gainesville, Virginia and Sacramento, California for the solid-fuel ducted-rocket motor, and Goodrich Sensors & Integrated Systems in Vergennes, Vermont for the vehicle’s fin actuation system.

About Orbital

Orbital develops and manufactures small- and medium-class rockets and space systems for commercial, military and civil government customers. The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar and other missions; ground- and air-launched rockets that deliver satellites into orbit; and missile defense systems that are used as interceptor and target vehicles. Orbital also provides satellite subsystems and space-related technical services to U.S. Government agencies and laboratories.

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Source: orbital, August 2, 2011;

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