Vector-R Wallops
An engineering test model of the Vector-R rocket at Pad 0B of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. Credit: Vector

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — Small launch provider Vector Launch has received a $3.4 million contract from the Air Force Rocket Systems Launch Program office to lift experimental satellites to low Earth orbit.

The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center announced the award Aug. 7. The company was informed of the award Aug. 6.

The contract falls under the Small Rocket Program-Orbital (SRP-O) program run by the Space and Missile Systems Center’s launch enterprise experimental division at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Rocket Systems Launch Program office is part of SMC’s Launch Enterprise.

The Air Force issued a solicitation for bids Dec. 14, 2018, for the Agile Small Launch Operational Normalizer (ASLON). Responses were due Jan. 18.

The ASLON-45 space vehicle manifest will consist of multiple 3U and larger U.S. government cubesats to low Earth orbit (LEO) at a 45 degree inclination. Under the contract, Vector will provide all required dispensers and perform all payload integration and launch operations. The ASLON-45 mission will support the Defense Department’s Space Test Program.

The RSLP office used Federal Acquisition Regulation Part 13.5 simplified acquisition procedures to expedite the award, the Air Force said. “We awarded this mission in just over three months from Request for Proposal release to contract award,” said Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the Small Launch and Targets Division. “We’re using ASLON-45 as part of our building blocks to get to more responsive space launch.”

This will be the first U.S. Air Force mission for Vector Launch, based in Tucson, Arizona. The mission will be launched from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The initial launch capability of the ASLON-45 mission is scheduled for the third quarter of 2021.

“The Small Rocket Program-Orbital framework provides orbital launch services to academia, DOD, and other government agencies for operations, research, development, and test missions and is a shining example of SMC’s drive to provide innovation and partnership across the enterprise faster than ever before,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of SMC’s Launch Enterprise, said in a statement. “These orbital missions, like ALSON-45, can be used to directly support the warfighter and demonstrate new weapon system technologies and concepts.”

Sandra Erwin writes about military space programs, policy, technology and the industry that supports this sector. She has covered the military, the Pentagon, Congress and the defense industry for nearly two decades as editor of NDIA’s National Defense...