[Via Satellite 06-15-2015] NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has issued a Request for Proposal (RFP) for its recently created commercial Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) for small satellites and experiments. The agency plans to award one or more firm fixed-price VCLS contracts to accommodate 132 pounds of CubeSats in a single launch or two launches carrying 66 pounds each. The launch provider will determine the launch location and date, but the launch must occur by April 15, 2018.
NASA is seeking to help cultivate launch services dedicated to transporting smaller payloads into orbit, for which the agency anticipates having a long-term need. This solicitation, and resulting contract or contracts, is intended to demonstrate a dedicated launch capability with a class of rockets smaller than any currently available to the agency.
“This will start to open up viable commercial opportunities,” said Mark Wiese, chief of the flight projects office for LSP. “We hope to be one of the first customers for these companies, and once we get going, the regular launches will drive the costs down for everyone.”
NASA is pursuing this approach to leverage commercial options rather than develop its own launch system. The agency would buy the launch service like any other customer could to achieve cost savings.
“As we drive costs down, that frees up more money for science,” added Wiese. “We see this emerging capability to launch CubeSats as something the world is going to need.”