NASA Seeks Affordable Heavy-lift Rocket Ideas

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NASA issued a call for “affordable” heavy-lift launch vehicle concepts June 29 that could take the place of the Ares 5 rocket the agency had planned to build under the marked-for-cancellation Constellation program.

The so-called Broad Area Announcement (BAA) gives industry until July 29 to submit their heavy-lift study proposals. Total funding available under the announcement is about $8 million with no single contract expected to exceed $625,000.

“A variety of in-space architectural elements may be included, such as propellant depots, and space transfer stages and vehicles,” NASA said in the announcement. “The focus will be on developing affordable system concepts that may be used by multiple entities, such as the Department of Defense, commercial corporations and international space agencies.”

U.S. President Barack Obama told a Florida audience in April that NASA would select by 2015 the design for the nation’s next heavy-lift rocket. Many lawmakers, including the chairman of a key NASA oversight committee in the Senate, want to see the agency move out on a new heavy-lifter in the year ahead.