Status Report

NASA RFI: Partnerships for Industry-Led Development of Suborbital Reusable and Small Spacecraft Orbital Launch Systems

By SpaceRef Editor
November 4, 2014
Filed under , ,


Synopsis – Oct 30, 2014

General Information

    Solicitation Number: RFI-FO-T2-09102014A

    Posted Date: Oct 30, 2014

    FedBizOpps Posted Date: Oct 30, 2014

    Recovery and Reinvestment Act Action: No

    Original Response Date: Nov 20, 2014

    Current Response Date: Nov 20, 2014

    Classification Code: A — Research and Development

    NAICS Code: 336414



Contracting Office Address


NASA/Armstrong Flight Research Center, Code A, P.O. Box 273, Edwards, CA 93523-0273




COGNIZANT OFFICE: NASA/Armstrong Flight Research Center, Flight Opportunities Program, MS 2701, PO Box 273, Edwards, CA 93523


The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is continually looking for ways to help advance the development of commercial space products and services. With the recent influx of U.S. private-sector companies interested in development of capabilities for reusable suborbital launch systems for access to space environments and/or small spacecraft orbital launch systems, NASA is seeking to better understand U.S. industry’s interests in the private development of these systems. To that end, NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program and Small Spacecraft Technology Program (“The Programs”) in the Space Technology Mission Directorate are seeking input through this Request for Information (RFI) that focuses on industry-developed suborbital reusable launch systems, and/or orbital launch systems for small spacecraft, that can serve as platforms for the purpose of supporting commercial (as well as potentially future NASA) missions. The Programs are also interested in the development of other closely related subsystems including ground support systems and test ranges to assist in launch vehicle development.


An industry-NASA partnership would:


* Transfer and capitalize on a long history of NASA investments, knowledge, and expertise relevant to launch system technologies


* Support a growing commercial interest to provide more frequent, reliable, and cost-effective sub-orbital and orbital access to space for small payloads than is currently available


NASA has recently awarded indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity, five-year contracts to four entities to provide suborbital reusable launch and payload integration services for access to space for small technology payloads. The IDIQ contract was restricted to vendors with commercial operational readiness. Because NASA recognizes the need for developing additional vendor capabilities in this rapidly expanding sector, the IDIQ contract has provisions for ramping on of new vendors on at least an annual basis, and also has the provision for expanding the required technology to include other types of flight profiles, including the insertion of small payloads into orbit. NASA anticipates that vendors who participate in this partnership and successfully develop a commercial operational capability will seek to be included in the IDIQ commercial contract at some point in the future.


NASA seeks to better understand U.S. industry’s plans for suborbital launch system capabilities that, in addition to serving commercial customers, could also enable space technology development and other missions. Potential areas of interest to NASA include (but are not limited to) providing access to relevant space-like environments for testing space hardware, evaluating various remote earth sensing and atmospheric sensing instruments, qualifying systems in the environment of space, testing systems in a microgravity environment, evaluating concepts for atmospheric entry, descent and landing for planetary landers. These capabilities typically are applicable for launching small payloads, which range in mass from 1 to 25 kg, under various flight conditions and to various altitudes up to and exceeding 100km above ground level.


NASA also seeks to better understand U.S. industry’s plans for systems that could serve both commercial and government customers for launching small spacecraft into Earth orbit and beyond. In the case of the development of orbital capabilities, our interest is not limited exclusively to reusable systems – affordable expendable systems are also of interest. Typical small spacecraft payloads of interest range in mass from approximately 5 to 100 kilograms. Such launch systems would be of interest to NASA for the delivery of small spacecraft to Earth orbit for technology demonstrations and missions for science, exploration and space operations.


Potential NASA contributions to a partnership with U.S. industry include:


Technical Expertise: NASA envisions that an integrated team comprised of NASA civil servants and industry partner personnel could work together to design, develop, and test suborbital reusable launch systems or small orbital launch systems.


Test Facilities: NASA can provide industry partners, at no cost, access to testing facilities such as calibrated ranges, tracking and data acquisition systems, test stands, wind tunnels, thermal vacuum chambers and other environmental test facilities, clean rooms, etc., as available.


Hardware and Software: NASA may be able to contribute specific hardware and software elements for the development and testing of the suborbital reusable launch systems or orbital launch systems.


The type of agreement to be employed for this NASA-industry partnership is to be determined, but options include Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreements, Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), or other (ref. NASA Policy Directive (NPD) 1050.1l, 15 USC S3710a(d)(1)). The key perspective is that NASA would provide personnel, goods, services and facilities, but not direct funding. Private partners would retain all intellectual property with NASA retaining non-exclusive limited rights.


Responses to this RFI should include the following information:


Company information: Company name and address, point-of-contact name, e-mail address, phone number.


Type of launch system or subsystem: Reusable Suborbital or Small Orbital (if addressing both types of launch systems, please submit separate responses for each). Specify which or both launch systems are applicable to your proposed system; describe the current technology readiness level, why your proposed system is relevant to the Flight Opportunities mission, and how you plan to move the technology forward to flight. Feasibility of a partnership: Is NASA-industry cooperation feasible? What type of arrangement and agreement with NASA are desired by your company and why? Are Non-Reimbursable Space Act Agreements or CRADAs a viable approach? Identify any particular considerations, circumstances, or issues that would need to be addressed in an agreement. For example, what are your expectations regarding the allocation of intellectual property rights?


Potential industry contributions: List potential industry contributions that would complement the possible NASA contributions outlined above.


Potential NASA contributions: What expertise and support does your company need or desire from NASA?


Services concept: What commercial capabilities do you plan to develop if the partnership is successful? Describe the proposed suborbital reusable launch system or orbital launch system, payload accommodations (e.g. mass, volume, power, communications, ability for the payload to vent to the atmosphere, ability to eject a payload under controlled conditions, ability for the payload to control the launch vehicle, etc.), in the case of small orbital launch, the projected insertion conditions, mission concept, and operational readiness timeframe. For subsystems and launch support, describe how this development meshes with a specific commercial capability for suborbital and orbital launch systems.


Business model: What is your intended business strategy for offering commercial services? How many suborbital reusable launch system or small spacecraft missions of interest to the commercial sector have you identified? Have you identified other potential customers for a commercial payload delivery capability in addition to NASA, and how firm is the demand? What revenue model and pricing strategy have you established? How stable is your anticipated income stream?


Responders are also invited to comment on the selected NAICS and classification codes.


Responses are limited to no more than 15 pages, and should be submitted via email to the Point of Contact (POC) listed below. The subject line of the submission should be “Suborbital Reusable and Small Orbital Launch Systems RFI” and attachments should be in Microsoft WORD, POWERPOINT, or PDF format. Files should not be greater than 8MB in size. The information is requested for planning purposes only, subject to Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) Clause 52.215-3, entitled “Solicitation for Information for Planning Purposes.”


It is not NASA’s intent to publicly disclose any proprietary information obtained from this RFI. To the full extent that it is protected pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act and other laws and regulations, information identified by a respondent as “Proprietary or Confidential” will be kept confidential. It is emphasized that this RFI is for planning and information purposes only and is NOT to be construed as a commitment by the Government to enter into a contractual or other form of agreement, nor will the Government pay for information solicited. If NASA decides to proceed with a new procurement or partnership announcement, NASA will synopsize its intent on FedBizOpps.


No solicitation exists; therefore, do not request a copy of the solicitation. If a solicitation is released, it will be synopsized in FedBizOpps and on the NASA Acquisition Internet Service. It is the potential offeror’s responsibility to monitor these sites for the release of any solicitation or synopsis.


At its discretion, NASA may hold meetings with respondents as needed to clarify responses and obtain further details.


All questions shall be directed to the POC listed below.


NASA Clause 1852.215-84, Ombudsman, is applicable. The Center Ombudsman for this announcement can be found at: .


Point of Contact

    Name:Ronald Young

    Title:Program Manager




    Name:Edmund M Hamlin

    Title:Project Manager





SpaceRef staff editor.