Ahead of the Bell: Orbital Sciences launch success

Orbital Sciences launches 1st Antares rocket; aims for space station demonstration in months

Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. are likely to get a boost Monday after the successful test launch of its first Antares rocket.

Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences is one of two private companies contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station after the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Orbital was awarded a $1.9 billion contract for eight deliveries.

About 10 minutes after the launch from Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore on Sunday, Orbital Sciences declared the test a success after observing a practice payload reach orbit and safely separate from the rocket. The launch came after two previous attempts were scrubbed, the latest in a series of delays for the company.

Jefferies analyst Howard Rubel said in a note to investors that the successful test is an important milestone toward increasing revenue and profitability for Orbital Sciences.

He said successfully completing the International Space Station missions is the most important order of business for the company, with each successfully completed mission potentially adding $50 million in revenue.

In a statement Sunday, the company said it will now move forward toward completing the full demonstration mission of its system to resupply the International Space Station with essential cargo "in just a couple of months."

Orbital Sciences expects to complete four or five cargo missions by the end of 2014.

Investors may also be eyeing GenCorp, the parent company of Aerojet, which supplied the main engine system for the rocket.

Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. closed Friday at $16.21, up nearly 18 percent since the start of the year. The stock has traded between $10.59 and $17.43 in the past 52 weeks.

GenCorp Inc., shares ended Friday at $12.43, up nearly 36 percent in 2013. The stock has traded between $5.69 and $13.87 in the past 52 weeks.

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