Science and Exploration

NASA’s Independent Upper Stage Service

By Keith Cowing
Press Release
December 16, 2012
Filed under , , ,
NASA’s Independent Upper Stage Service

The primary purpose of this RFI is to collect information on key parameters that will help NASA refine and mature an acquisition strategy for procuring an independent upper stage service. The service may include the upper stage hardware, support of mission integration efforts, meetings, reviews, analyses, ground support equipment, launch site integration, processing, testing, operations and launch support.
NASA Solicitation: Strategy for Procuring an Independent Upper Stage Service

Synopsis – Dec 14, 2012

General Information
Solicitation Number: RFI-KSC-USS
Posted Date: Dec 14, 2012
FedBizOpps Posted Date: Dec 14, 2012
Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No
Original Response Date: Feb 12, 2013
Current Response Date: Feb 12, 2013
Classification Code: 18 — Space vehicles
NAICS Code: 336414

Contracting Office Address

NASA/John F. Kennedy Space Center, Procurement, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899


REQUEST FOR INFORMATION (RFI) Upper Stage Service Launch Services Program, Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, NASA

General Information: Reference Number: RFI-KSC-USS Posted Date: December 14, 2012 Original Response Date: February 12, 2013 Classification Code: V126 NAICS Code: 336414

INTRODUCTION The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Launch Service Program (LSP) invites you to submit a response to this inquiry to assist in the development of an approach to provide the Agency with an upper stage service. LSP serves as the Agency’s provider of domestic expendable launch services and advisor on expendable launch systems. LSP oversees mission integration, mission analysis, launch vehicle production, and down range telemetry assets at various domestic and international locations. The program manages launch site activities at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB).

The primary purpose of this RFI is to collect information on key parameters that will help NASA refine and mature an acquisition strategy for procuring an independent upper stage service. The service may include the upper stage hardware, support of mission integration efforts, meetings, reviews, analyses, ground support equipment, launch site integration, processing, testing, operations and launch support. The intent is to provide a cost effective and reliable upper stage that enhances performance for high energy NASA missions to be flown on launch vehicles procured through the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II Contract.

BACKGROUND LSP provides domestic launch services for NASA payloads including high energy Earth escape missions, many of which may benefit from the use of an upper stage. The intended use of an upper stage is to enable additional performance options for NASA missions that utilize the NLS II fleet of Expendable Launch Vehicles (ELV). Historically, high energy planetary missions that require performance beyond a launch vehicle!’s contracted capability have individually acquired and integrated an upper stage separate from the launch service. This one-off approach complicates mission design and limits synergy with other programs. An upper stage service would better support the science mission community by providing a known and common capability available for use on multiple NLS II launch vehicles.

NASA is interested in utilizing a complete and independent upper stage that is compatible with existing launch vehicles using an industry standard set of payload adapters and electrical connectors. Of primary interest is a stage that provides an approximate delta-V capability of 3,000 m/sec (~10,000 ft/sec) given a payload of 500 kg (1100 lbs) and is able to support a payload range of approximately 400 to 3800 kg (880 to 8400 lbs). Both larger and smaller systems are of interest as well.

For the purpose of assessing NASA missions that may benefit from the use of an upper stage, NASA is considering a mission model with the potential for a Mars mission every two years along with an additional science mission every three to five years beginning in the 2017 time frame.

SPECIFIC INFORMATION SOLICITED The objective of this RFI is to solicit information from industry that could potentially enhance NASA!’s approach for acquisition of an upper stage service that may be utilized by selected NASA missions. Responders are invited to provide information regarding the topics discussed below.

Describe the overall upper stage concept including propulsion method, system heritage, and generalized processing and launch environments (allowable and payload induced). Provide estimated stage performance capability using any method of choice (e.g. delta-v as a function of payload mass, spacecraft (S/C) mass as a function of C3 assuming the use of a proposed upper stage on various launch vehicles (LV) already available to NASA under the NLS II contract). Of particular interest is performance capability for the sample missions provided below: Mission LV C3(km2/sec2) DLA(deg) S/C Mass Goal (kg) 1 Atlas V 551 159 <=28.5 610 2 Falcon 9 19 <=28.5 2300 3 Falcon 9 9 <=28.5 3800 More information on the NLS II launch vehicle fleet including vehicle performance can be found at . Note that the NLS II launch vehicle performance provided on this web site reflects separated payload mass assuming a standard payload adapter and separation system. For the purposes of this RFI, add 50 kg to the reported NLS II launch vehicle performance capability if the upper stage will attach to the launch vehicle via a 62 inch bolted interface (see below).

Discuss electrical/mechanical interfaces including payload attach fittings with consideration being given to the upper stage to launch vehicle interface and the upper stage to spacecraft interface. Consideration should also be given to spacecraft separation system options, including separation indication signals. Provide overall stage dimensions to demonstrate compatibility with existing payload envelopes for vehicles on the NLS II contract. Upper stage designs are expected to interface with NLS II launch vehicles via either a 62 inch diameter bolted adapter (if the launch vehicle/upper stage separation system is provided by the upper stage) or any of the various industry standard attach fitting/separation system options provided as part of the NLS II launch service. Industry standard 37 to 61 pin electrical connectors should be assumed. Any launch-vehicle-to-upper-stage data requirements, to be incorporated into the electrical interface with the launch vehicle, should be identified. More information can be found in the launch vehicle user guides.

Atlas V:

Falcon 9:

Discuss the approach to upper stage guidance navigation and control including the method used to achieve an accurate injection state. Consideration should be given to requirements at upper stage separation, during upper stage burn, and at spacecraft separation. Discuss vehicle sequencing from upper stage separation through spacecraft separation. Also briefly describe the avionics system, telemetry system and any spin rate capability.

Discuss the ability to support mission integration efforts as part of an upper stage service. Efforts required may include but are not limited to support of technical interchange meetings, requirements definition, mission design reviews, delivery of analysis products, standalone and integrated operations including stage testing, hazardous processing, concept of operations for spacecraft and launch vehicle processing, and launch campaign. Emphasis should be placed on minimizing launch pad operations.

Discuss the upper stage development effort and current level of overall system maturity. Address the ability and approach to support mission integration activities after mission award, while completing stage development and/or qualification in parallel. Identify any planned uses of the proposed upper stage concept prior to a potential mission award.

Discuss or suggest any terms and conditions for alternative contractual approaches to procure an upper stage capability (e.g. Teaming with existing NLS II launch service providers).

Provide expected ROM costs and the associated phasing of the payment of these costs as related to the development, initial and follow-on use of an upper stage. Phasing of development, initial, and follow-on use should be provided in the form of a payment schedule tied to upper stage integration milestones in preparation for launch.

RESPONSE INSTRUCTIONS NASA recommends that responders refer to the NLS RFP (RFP10-99-0021, Revision E), at the following link: NASA also recommends that responders refer to NPD 8610.23C, Launch Vehicle Technical Oversight Policy, at the following link:

The requested responses are for information and planning purposes only. NASA does not intend to post information or questions received to any website or public access location, or notify individual respondents of evaluation results. Responses to this RFI may be utilized in formulating the Government!’s future acquisition strategy and requirements.

Responses are requested via email or hardcopy to the undersigned. Responses should be limited to 30 pages. Acceptable formats include MS Word, PowerPoint, .pdf, or .mov. Font should be Times New Roman, minimum size 12. Responses should reference RFI-KSC-USS. Please submit responses no later than 4:00PM EST on February 12, 2013, to NASA/KSC Procurement Office, Attn: OP-LS, Leslie Solum, Contracts Specialist, Kennedy Space Center, FL 32899, or via email at NASA reserves the right to share information received in response to this RFI throughout NASA and to use all information submitted in response to this RFI in NASA!’s formulation of a solicitation seeking competitive proposals. NASA will not disclose proprietary information obtained as a result of this RFI. To the full extent that it is protected by law and regulations, information identified by a respondent as Proprietary or Confidential will not be shared outside of the immediate NASA team. This preliminary information is being made available for planning purposes only, subject to FAR Clause 52.215-3, entitled !*Solicitation for Information and Planning Purposes.!+/- It does not constitute a Request for Proposal, Invitation for Bid, or Request for Quotation, and it is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into a contract. Moreover, the Government will not pay for the information submitted in response to this RFI, nor will the Government reimburse a Respondent for costs incurred to prepare responses to this RFI. No Solicitation exists at this time; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released, it will be synopsized in FedBizOps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service (NAIS). Firms that respond to this RFI will be placed on any future mailing list for this acquisition. However, it is the responsibility of the respondent to monitor these websites for the release of any solicitation or synopsis. POINT OF CONTACT: Contracts Specialist: Leslie Solum, Contracts Specialist, Phone (321)867-0299, Fax (321)867-4848, Email:

Point of Contact

Name: Leslie M. Solum
Title: Contract Specialist
Phone: 321-867-0299
Fax: 321-867-1188

Name: John M. Vondenhuevel
Title: Contracting Officer
Phone: 321-476-4756
Fax: 321-476-4746

SpaceRef co-founder, Explorers Club Fellow, ex-NASA, Away Teams, Journalist, Space & Astrobiology, Lapsed climber.