NASA Partners With Blue Origin and Spaceflight in New Commercial Launch Contracts16th Feb 2022
For commercial launch services, NASA has recently entered into partnerships with a dozen companies, which are contracted to perform small-scale space missions over the next 5 years. Blue Origin space venture and Spaceflight Inc. have been approved for $300 million set aside to cover fixed-price contracts under the Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare Missions (VADR) by NASA.
Blue Origin Proves Right for the Missions
Although Blue Origin is headquartered in Kent, Washington, NASA picked Blue Origin as one of the choices for the VADR missions for its Florida facilities. Orbital launches would be done in Florida using the company’s Glenn rocket, which is still currently under development. Meanwhile, Spaceflight Inc. specialises in organising rideshare missions while using other companies’ launch vehicles.
VADR is a successor to NASA’s Venture Class Launch Services program, focusing on payloads that range from CubeSats not exceeding the size of a shoebox to larger spacecraft built for risk-tolerant Class D space missions.
Supporting the Growing Launch Industry
According to Bradley Smith, NASA’s Director of Launch Services, VADR is crafted to maximise NASA’s efforts in supporting a growing launch industry in the United States. With these partnerships, NASA can meet different science and technology needs, which further enhances the agency’s reputation as the bridge to space.
Besides Spaceflight and Blue Origin, VADR includes:
- L2 Solutions of Houston
- Astra Space of Alameda
- Virgin Orbit of Long Beach
- SpaceX of Hawthorne
- Phantom Space Corp, Tucson
- Rocket Lab USA, Long Beach
The VADR acquisition includes an on-ramp provision that enables providers to submit proposals and introduce new launch capabilities that were not identified in the initial contract award. With participants such as Blue Origin, the mission is likely to succeed.