The Air Force released May 30 a request for information (RFI) for capabilities for new rapid space launch initiatives.
“The US Air Force is investigating the possible procurement of a capability to rapidly launch and deploy space payloads critical to national security in an ultra-responsive manner,” the FedBizOpps notice said. The goal is 24 hours from “call up” notification to on-orbit capability.
The service has scheduled a Rapid Space Launch Industry Day to take place July 29-30 in El Segundo, Calif., the RFI said. A contract for further studies and tabletop exercises would be expected thereafter, followed by a capability demonstration contract award and an operational capability contract award.
“Many efforts are ongoing to strengthen our space resiliency such as: improved space situational awareness, increased space vehicle defense and survivability, distributed constellations with a greater number of smaller satellites, utilization of on-orbit spares, and responsive space launch,” the document said. “The intention of this RFI is for industry to respond with current and planned rapid space launch capabilities and to provide input into future rapid space launch efforts.”
The capability demonstration is intended to prove out the rapid space launch capability on an initially smaller scale, with some assumptions, the document said.
Those assumptions include the fact that the demonstration scenario would be based upon a rapid requirement responding to an “unforeseen event,” and that the payload would be ready for flight and prepositioned at the intended launch location. The intended orbit is Low-Earth Orbit for a single Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Secondary Payload Adapter (ESPA) class space vehicle or smaller, with a mass up to about 485 pounds, or 220 kg. “However, demonstrated solutions that can scale to orbits and payloads of national security value are also of great interest.”
Survivability of the capability is not a demonstration requirement, but will be a consideration for future operational capabilities, the notice said. Responses are due by July 15.
Meanwhile, the Air Force also issued a draft request for proposals (RFP) Thursday to solicit industry feedback ahead of requesting actual proposals for small national security launches.
The program, dubbed Orbital Services Program-4 (OSP-4), will award indefinite-delivery/indefinite quantity contracts to retain a set of qualified launch vehicles to support about 20 small- to medium-sized missions over a nine-year ordering period with each mission being a separate task order, according to documents posted via FedBizOpps Thursday evening. Requirements include the ability to transport up to 400 pounds of payload to Low-Earth Orbit or up to 8,000 pounds to Geostationary Orbit with launches scheduled within 12 to 24 months of contract award.
OSP is a contract vehicle operating under the Air Force’s Rocket System Launch Program (RSLP), run by the Launch Systems Directorate at the Space and Missile Systems Center, Los Angeles Air Force Base. National Security Space Launch certification is not required to participate in RSLP, the documents said. Responses to the draft RFP are due by June 13.
The Air Force awarded four five-year OSP-3 contracts in 2012 to Space X, Lockheed Martin Space Systems [LMT] and Orbital ATK, now Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems [NOC].