Status Report

Insight into NASA Space Tether Experiment

By SpaceRef Editor
December 14, 2003
Filed under ,
Insight into NASA Space Tether Experiment

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Editor’s note: On 11 December 2003 NASA posted this procurement notice: NASA Presolicitation Notice: Analysis of the Launch of a large (15-16 metric tonne) Payload into an equatorial Low Earth Orbit (LEO) which states that: “NASA/MSFC has a requirement for Analysis of the launch of a large (15-16 metric tonne) payload into an equatorial low Earth orbit (LEO). NASA/MSFC intends to purchase the items from SeaLaunch LLC in Long Beach, California pursuant to FAR 13.106 for the acquisition of supplies or services determined to be reasonably available from only one source.”

I downloaded this NASA presolicitation notice and posted it on 11 Dec 2003. Now, two days later, it seems to have disappeared from official govenrment websites. When I search NASA’s procurement website for information on this solicitation, nothing shows up. A chronological search shows no mention that this Presolicitaiton notice ever even existed. A search at FBO yields no results as well. A “15-16 metric tonne” payload (33,000 – 35,200 lbs) is a rather large piece of hardware.

I have now learned that this solicitation was pulled by NASA on Friday. According to Betty Kilpatrick at NASA MSFC who sent me an email on Monday, 15 December 2003, “it had been issued prematurely, and had not been fully coordinated within NASA.”

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As I understand the situation, a project office at MSFC was looking for information regarding significant payload capability to equatorial orbit and the only existing provider for such a large payload delivery is SeaLaunch. The interest was in doing some preliminary studies and this procurement mechanism was the only way to get the ball rolling. NASA HQ got nervous and asked that this procurement be yanked. And it was.

Too bad – the payload in question is the Momentum-Exchange/Electrodynamic-Reboost (MXER) a rather cool project which would use a large mass – the upper stage of the SeaLaunch Zenit and some other hardware to throw a payload to a higher orbit – or elsewhere in the solar system.

An excellent summary of this system can be found at One would hope that the impending Bush space policy would embrace the use of such new approaches to moving things around the cis-lunar space – and the inner solar system.

SpaceRef staff editor.