NASA to Announce Selections for Small Satellite Launch Contract
NASA will host a news conference at 1 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to announce the outcome of the Venture Class Launch Service (VCLS) competition.
The FIREBIRD-II CubeSat.
The news conference will air live on NASA Television and the agency’s website.
The participants are:
Garrett Skrobot, Educational Launch of Nanosatellites (ELaNa) mission lead for the Launch Services Program (LSP) at Kennedy
Eric Ianson, associate director of NASA’s Earth Sciences Division in the Science Mission Directorate at the agency’s headquarters in Washington
Mark Wiese, flight projects office chief, NASA Launch Services Program, Kennedy Space Center
Representatives from the selected launch service providers
The event will include a question-and-answer session with media. Media may participate in the briefing by calling the Kennedy news center at 321-867-2468 within 15 minutes prior to the start of the news conference to obtain a passcode for voice access. Social media also may ask questions using #askNASA.
The vehicles expected to meet the VCLS requirement represent an emerging class of commercial launch services for small satellites — often called CubeSats or nanosatellites — and science missions that are currently limited to ride-share arrangements, flying only when space is available on NASA and other launches.
This new class of launch services is intended to help open the door for future dedicated opportunities for CubeSat launches and science missions, so that a single rocket would be able to send dozens of the tiny spacecraft into orbit at once and on paths that best suit their scientific goals. The services acquired through such a contract will constitute the smallest class of launch services used by NASA.
In addition to the benefit of having a dedicated launch capability, this contract will save NASA the costs of developing a launch vehicle of its own for this purpose, instead paying for the launches as a service. The boosters will be developed by the commercial provider, with rocket costs supported by a wide market of users, also enabling the agency to enjoy cost savings.
VCLS is an element of a strategic initiative led by LSP and focused on assuring long-term launch services availability while also promoting the continued evolution of the U.S. commercial space launch market.
LSP supports the CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) by providing innovators at non-profits and educational institutions an accessible way to participate in space exploration. More than 50 CubeSats currently are awaiting launch over the next three years. NASA’s Earth Sciences Division anticipates future recurring science missions requiring LSP support and use of a dedicated capability for launching smaller payloads into orbit.
Small satellites, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research and educational investigations at NASA. These miniature satellites provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions, including planetary space exploration; Earth observations; fundamental Earth and space science; and developing precursor science instruments like cutting-edge laser communications, satellite-to-satellite communications and autonomous movement capabilities. They also allow educators an inexpensive means to engage students in all phases of satellite development, operation and exploitation through real-world, hands-on research and development experience on NASA-funded rideshare launch opportunities.