Three companies awarded NASA small launch Deals

Three companies awarded NASA small launch Deals

In order to support the development of new launches, three small launch car developers won a cumulative $16.7 million in NASA deals. The Agency reported on December 11 the contracts were awarded to Astra Space, Firefly Aerospace, and Relativity Space, through Venture Class Launch Services program 2 (VCLS) of NASA. They will deploy NASA cubesats on those missions by the end of 2022 June. 

The Agency requested recommendations for two unique types of missions in an application for proposals published in July. One, known as Mission One, will fire 30 kilograms of Cubesats in an orbit of 500 kilometers. Another one, Mission Two, will deploy cubesats of 75 kilograms in a sun-synchronous orbit of one 550 kilometers as well as a similar orbit of 20 kilograms, but at a minimum a 10-degree plane away from the first.

Astra was awarded the Mission One contract for $3.9 million, which the organization reported. Firefly has been awarded a $9.8 million contract for Mission Two by its government affairs affiliate Firefly Black. Relativity earned $3.0 million but did not reveal the class of mission on which its contract is planned in a statement. The firm did not answer a request for comment on the contract.

None of the three firms has sent the payload into space yet. In the month of September, Astra made the first-ever orbital launch effort at the Pacific Spaceport Complex on the Kodiak Island from Alaska; however, a flaw with the rocket control system prompted an engine shutdown caused the rocket to plunge near the launch site. Astra’s Rocket 3.2 spacecraft is currently being launched in Kodiak. Due to bad weather, the firm delayed a startup attempt on December 11 and claims that the next startup is not expected before December 14. The first flight of its Vandenberg Air Force Base Alpha rocket is underway by Firefly. The company is now planning to start its latest VCLS 2 deal in the first quarter of 2021 in a tweet.

In its first rocket launch scheduled in late 2021, Relativity is currently building the Terran 1, which it revealed last month to boost the $500 million Series D round of funding. The contracts match the initial NASA VCLS initiative initiated in 2015 to promote small launch vehicles’ production. Contracts for the launch of NASA funded cubesats were awarded by Firefly Space Systems, the Rocket Lab as well as Virgin Galactic. In December 2018, Rocket Lab conducted its VCLS flight, launching 10 NASA cubesats. When the corporation filed for bankruptcy, Firefly Space lost the deal in 2016. The properties of the company have been acquired, and in 2017, Firefly Aerospace was restored.