NASA Request for Information: Centennial Challenges Nano Satellite Launch Challenge

Status Report From: NASA HQ
Posted: Friday, August 10, 2012

image Synopsis - Aug 10, 2012

NSL Challenge - RFI Questions - Posted on Aug 10, 2012

General Information

Solicitation Number: NNH12ZUA001L
Posted Date: Aug 10, 2012
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Aug 10, 2012
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Sep 10, 2012
Current Response Date: Sep 10, 2012
Classification Code: A -- Research and Development
NAICS Code: 541712

Contracting Office Address

NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA Headquarters Acquisition Branch, Code 210.H, Greenbelt, MD 20771


NATIONAL AERONAUTICS AND SPACE ADMINISTRATION Request for Information - Centennial Challenges Nano Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge NNH12ZUA001L

AGENCY: National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

ACTION: Request for Information by September 10, 2012. Responses must be submitted in electronic form no later than September 10, 2012 to Dr. Larry Cooper, Centennial Challenges Program, NASA Headquarters, 300 E Street, SW, Washington, DC 20546-0001. E-mail address: For general information on the NASA Centennial Challenges Program see: .

SUMMARY: This notice is issued in accordance with 51 U.S.C. 20144(c).

Centennial Challenges is a program of prize competitions to stimulate innovation in technologies of interest and value to NASA and the nation. In 2010 NASA announced a Nano-Satellite Launch (NSL) Challenge to encourage development of safe, low-cost, small-payload delivery systems for frequent access to low Earth orbit (LEO) through innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems that could result in a commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches--a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers.

To assist in formulation of the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge, NASA is seeking additional information on the nano-satellite market and on approaches to address the market needs. There are currently several existing launch vehicles and new launch vehicle programs that could provide ride-sharing opportunities for nano-satellite. A NASA NSL Challenge could focus on a vehicle dedicated to providing greater payload design flexibility for cubesats and other small payloads, more frequent access to space at costs comparable or less than existing or proposed ride-share launch options. Comments are sought on the tradeoffs among these and other launch vehicle design parameters such as reliability, orbital accuracy, payloads, and cost so that the competition may be designed to best incentivize development of commercial vehicles for the nano-satellite launch market. For example, is there a payload market for a very low cost vehicle but with less orbital accuracy or lower reliability? What are the lower limits to market acceptability of vehicle design features? How frequently should the vehicle launch? What are the cost vs feature sensitivities?

Several approaches to the NSL Challenge are being considered by NASA. In one approach an initial competition would require delivery of payloads to LEO twice within a one-week period using a launch system sized to deliver up to 10Kg to LEO. The competition would be for one year and a $3M prize purse would be divided between all successful competitors. Subsequently, a second competition would be held that would require successful competitors to deliver payloads to LEO at least ten times within a one-year period using a launch system sized to deliver up to 10Kg to LEO. A total prize purse of $6M would be offered for at least 10 successful payload deliveries: 1st Place receiving $3M for most deliveries; 2nd place, $2M for next most deliveries; and 3rd place, $1M for next most deliveries. NASA seeks comments on the size and features of the prize purses. For example should it require more successful launches; should the purses be based on first to achieve the launch milestones, etc. An alternative approach to the NSL Challenge would be initially to focus on component and subsystem technology development. In particular the avionics for small launch vehicles is considered a significant cost item and novel approaches will be required to achieve a launch cost that is attractive to most nano-satellite developers. This phase would be followed by launch vehicle demonstration competitions along the lines of the approach described above.

The purpose of the Request for Information (RFI) is to: (1) invite comments on design features and price points of dedicated nano satellite launchers; (2) invite comments on these two approaches to structuring the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge; (3) invite input on alternative approaches; and 4) determine competitor interest in a Challenge.

The examples provided above are intended to stimulate thoughtful consideration of the future needs of the nano-satellite launch markets. Final competition parameters will depend upon the payload and vehicle community input from this Request for Information. Please download and respond to the full set of NSL Questions in the companion document.


This RFI is for informational purposes only and the Government will not pay for the information received. This RFI is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the government to enter into a contractual agreement or to pursue a challenge.

This document is for information and planning purposes, to gauge interest from the community in participation, and to promote competition. The Government encourages all segments of industry, academia, and government, including associations, innovators, and enthusiasts to reply.

Responses should be submitted in Adobe PDF or Microsoft Word format. Responses should include (as applicable): name, address, email address, and phone number of the respondent, business, or organization, with point of contact for business or organization. All responses are to be for general access by Government evaluators, and comments on the proposed challenge may be provided to the public. Names and contact information will be kept Confidential.

Point of Contact

Name: Dr. Larry P Cooper
Title: Program Executive for Centennial Challenges
Phone: 202-358-1531
Fax: 202-358-3223

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