Rocket Lab USA, Inc. (Nasdaq: RKLB), a leading launch services provider and space systems company, has been selected by NASA as one of twelve companies to provide launch services for the agency’s Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) missions. The deal will provide new opportunities for science and technology payloads and fostering a growing U.S. commercial launch services market. VADR is a five-year program with a maximum total budget of $300 million in launch contracts. Rocket Lab is a major adopter of additive manufacturing for engine and rocket parts.
Rocket Lab founder and CEO, Peter Beck says the Rocket Lab team is proud to be selected by NASA once again to provide launch services for the nation’s science and technology payloads. “We are absolutely thrilled to be selected by NASA to support VADR missions, continuing our heritage of delivering a reliable ride to space for the agency’s small satellites as both dedicated and rideshare missions. NASA’s Launch Services Program plays a crucial role in growing the U.S launch services industry by ensuring resilient space access and we could not be prouder to play a role in that,” said Mr. Beck.
The VADR contracts will provide NASA with a broad range of Federal Aviation Administration-licensed commercial launch services capable of delivering payloads ranging from CubeSats to Class D missions to a variety of orbits, contributing to NASA’s science research and technology development.
Managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, the VADR acquisition builds on NASA’s previous procurement efforts including the Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contracts, which are fostering the development of new, small launch vehicles for NASA payloads. Rocket Lab launched the first VCLS mission in December 2018, successfully deploying 13 educational satellites to orbit from the Electron launch vehicle. The VADR contract joins a growing list of upcoming Rocket Lab missions for NASA:
CAPSTONE – Mission to the Moon: In February 2020, NASA selected Rocket Lab to provide launch services and a Photon spacecraft bus for CAPSTONE (the Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment), a satellite created by Advanced Space that will serve as the first spacecraft to test a unique, elliptical lunar orbit as a precursor for Gateway and other Artemis elements.
ESCAPADE – Mission to Mars: In June 2021, Rocket Lab was awarded a subcontract by the University of California Berkeley Space Sciences Laboratory (UCBSSL) to design two Photon spacecraft for a scientific mission to Mars. ESCAPADE is being developed under NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program in the Science Mission Directorate (SMD). The missionwill see two Photon spacecraft orbit Mars, supporting UCBSSL’s mission to understand the structure, composition, variability, and dynamics of Mars’ unique hybrid magnetosphere.
ACS3 – Solar Sail: In October 2021, Rocket Lab was selected to launch NASA’s Advanced Composite Solar Sail System (ACS3) on the Electron launch vehicle. NASA’s ACS3 technology demonstration uses composite in its novel, lightweight booms that deploy from a CubeSat to support a solar sail. Data obtained from the ACS3 demonstration will guide the design of future larger-scale composite solar sail systems that could be used for space weather early warning satellites, near-Earth asteroid reconnaissance missions, or communications relays for crewed exploration missions.