Orbital ATK Inc. is an American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company. It was formed in 2015 from the merger of Orbital Sciences Corporation and parts of Alliant Techsystems. Orbital ATK designs, builds and delivers space, defense and aviation-related systems to customers around the world both as a prime contractor and as a merchant supplier. Antares launches from Wallops in Virginia. Minotaur has many launch sites, with the most active now being Cape Canaveral and Vandenberg. Pegasus is an air launched vehicle from an aircraft and so has many launch locations.
This is the seventh flight of the Orbital ATK's unmanned resupply spacecraft Cygnus and its sixth flight to the International Space Station under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Orbital ATK named the vehicle after astronaut Alan Poindexter who was the commander of STS-131.
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) are a series of flights awarded by NASA for the delivery of cargo and supplies to the International Space Station.The first CRS contracts were signed in 2008 and awarded $1.6 billion to SpaceX for twelve cargo Dragon and $1.9 billion to Orbital Sciences for eight Cygnus flights, covering deliveries to 2016. The Falcon 9 and Antares rockets were also developed under the CRS program to deliver cargo spacecraft to the ISS.
The International Space Station programme is tied together by a complex set of legal, political and financial agreements between the sixteen nations involved in the project, governing ownership of the various components, rights to crewing and utilization, and responsibilities for crew rotation and resupply of the International Space Station. It was conceived in 1984 by President Ronald Reagan, during the Space Station Freedom project as it was originally called.