NASA wants to hear from smallsat builders interested in hitching rides on SLS

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LOGAN, Utah — As NASA prepares to launch cubesats on the first Space Launch System flight, the space agency is asking satellite developers to share information on small spacecraft they would like to fly on subsequent missions.

“We are seeking your input,” said Kimberly Robinson, NASA Marshall Space Flight Center’s SLS secondary payloads manager. “We want to make flexible options and accommodate the type of cubesats you want to fly in the future.”

NASA plans to fly 13 cubesats to gather data on the sun, moon, asteroids and Earth on the first SLS test flight slated for 2019. For the following SLS mission, a test flight of SLS with the Orion crew capsule known as Exploration Mission-2 scheduled to launch in 2022, NASA is redesigning the second stage to loft 105 metric tons into orbit.

That redesigned SLS, known as Block 1B, will include a secondary payload adapter which could house small satellites, ranging from 6u to 27u cubesats. The 2022 SLS flight also might also be able to accommodate ESPA-class payloads, Robinson said, referring to the EELV secondary payload adapter the Air Force designed to fly on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets.

Robinson also asked small satellite developers to describe the type of spacecraft they would like to fly on the SLS Europa Clipper mission so her office can make the case to include secondary payloads on the flight. “As we get your input, we can advocate for that mass allocation in the future,” Robinson said.