Seattle-based Spaceflight Inc. signed a contract with the U.S. Air Force Space Development and Test Directorate to find secondary payload accommodations for two small experimental satellites, STPSat-3 and Kestral Eye, aboard Falcon 9 rockets Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) plans to launch in 2013.
STPSat-3 is the second Space Test Program-Standard Interface Vehicle (STP-SIV) that Boulder, Colo.-based Ball Aerospace & Technologies has built for the Air Force. Kestrel Eye is an optical imaging satellite built by Crofton, Md.-based Maryland Aerospace Inc. for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command.
Spaceflight Inc. President and Chief Executive Jason Andrews said the multiphase contract calls for conducting a feasibility study of potential commercial launch options that meet the satellites’ orbital insertion requirements.
If Spaceflight finds a suitable ride, the Air Force can exercise options for the launch of STPSat-3 and Kestrel Eye on the proposed commercial launch vehicle.
“This is a critical pathfinding contract,” Andrews said. “Our goal is to demonstrate that the U.S. government can save significant money by using commercial launch services for small and secondary payloads.”
Spaceflight Inc. is currently under contract to fly commercial and NASA payloads on the maiden flight of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket. That launch is targeted for August from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.