Orbital Gains After SpaceX Success: Washington Mover

Orbital Sciences Corp. shares rose for a second day amid speculation the company would follow Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s success in launching a capsule to the International Space Station.

Shares of Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital rose 45 cents, or 4 percent, to close at $11.78 in New York. They gained 59 cents, or 5.5 percent, yesterday. The two-day increase is the biggest since April 2009.

“The company could be experiencing a bit of afterglow from the recent success of SpaceX,” said Chris Quilty, an analyst with Raymond James & Associates Inc. in St. Petersburg, Florida. He has an outperform rating on the stock.

SpaceX, controlled by billionaire Elon Musk, on May 25 became the first company to dock a private supply ship at the International Space Station.

A successful launch and docking may help Orbital reverse a 40 percent slide in the past year, according to a Bloomberg story yesterday. Shares of Orbital on June 4 closed at $10.70, the lowest since July 19, 2005.

“It’s been quite surprising to me that they didn’t benefit from all of the positive press that SpaceX has received,” Quilty said in a phone interview. “Most investors seem to have missed the point that Orbital is the other company that has a contract to carry cargo.”

Orbital plans to test a rocket in August, followed by liftoff of a spacecraft to supply the station in October or December.

“There’s no other defense company with better top-line and earnings potential than Orbital,” Patrick McCarthy, an analyst with Arlington, Virginia-based FBR Capital Markets & Co., said in yesterday’s Bloomberg story.

All nine analysts monitored by Bloomberg who cover Orbital recommend the stock.

The first flight of Antares, Orbital’s newest and biggest rocket, has been repeatedly postponed because of delays in construction of a launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia. The liftoff was previously scheduled for 2011.

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