NASA Seeks Payloads for Suborbital Reusable Rockets

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NASA on Feb. 10 put out a call for “game changing” science and technology payloads to be flown aboard the half-dozen suborbital reusable launch vehicles selected last year for the U.S. space agency’s Flight Opportunities Program.

NASA will accept proposals from government and nongovernment agencies, including its own field centers. The agency said it expects to make about 20 awards this summer, most of which will be worth between $50,000 and $125,000. Several larger awards, worth up to $500,000, could be doled out for payloads focused on “vehicle integration and payload engineering technology enhancements and onboard research facilities to improve platform capabilities,” according to the NASA statement that announced the impending solicitation.

Proposals are due March 26, according to the solicitation.

“This solicitation offers an opportunity to develop potentially transformative technologies that take advantage of our Flight Opportunities Program platforms, which allow frequent and predictable commercial access to near-space, with easy recovery of intact payloads,” Michael Gazarik, director of NASA’s Space Technology Program at NASA headquarters in Washington, said in the statement.

In August, NASA awarded indefinite-quantity, indefinite-delivery contracts to seven commercially operated companies that provide flight opportunities for experimental payloads. Each vendor received a two-year contract; the combined value of the seven contracts was $10 million, at the time of the award.

Of the seven vendors awarded contracts, only two are currently offering flights on reusable suborbital rockets: Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif., and UP Aerospace of Denver.

NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., manages the Flight Opportunities Program for the agency’s Space Technology Program. The Space Technology Program is administered under the auspices of NASA Office of the Chief Technologist, which has been given broad responsibility across the agency for maturing emerging space technologies.