NASA announced it awarded a launch services task order to SpaceX on June 13th for two CubeSat missions as part of the agency's Venture-class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract. The missions are scheduled to be launched no earlier than 2025 aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. The specific payloads for these missions will be determined by NASA closer to the launch date.
NASA has a 'CubeSat Launch Initiative' which offers opportunities for CubeSats built by universities, high schools, and non-profit organizations from the United States to be launched to space as part of the program. This includes informal educational institutions like museums and science centers. CubeSats are small satellites used for various scientific research and technology demonstrations.
The VADR launch services contract, which aims to support the growth of the U.S. commercial launch market, provides commercial launch services for payloads that can tolerate a higher level of risk and are licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). NASA says these contracts utilize a “lower level of mission assurance” and employ commercial best practices to reduce launch costs, making space more accessible to a wider range of users.
SpaceX is one of the 13 companies selected by NASA in 2022 to participate in the VADR contracts. The Launch Services Program at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida will oversee the management of these contracts, ensuring the successful execution of the missions.
This partnership between NASA and SpaceX represents another milestone in the ongoing collaboration between the two entities. SpaceX has a proven track record of successful launches, including numerous missions to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) program, and seven astronaut missions to the ISS as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) which returned human spaceflight capabilities to the United States in 2020.
With the VADR contract, NASA continues to foster the development of a vibrant and competitive commercial launch industry in the United States. By leveraging the capabilities of commercial providers like SpaceX, the agency aims to further expand human presence in space and accelerate scientific discovery and advance technology. As the launch date approaches, NASA will work closely with SpaceX to finalize the details of the CubeSat missions, ensuring the successful delivery of these valuable payloads to their intended destinations in space.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.