NASA has selected United LaunchÂ Alliance of Littleton, Colo., for the launch of two Science Mission Directorate and two Space Operations Mission Directorate payloads under the NASA Launch Services contract.
The launches will occur on Atlas V expendable launch vehicles. The total value of the award is approximately $600 million, which includes the launch services for the rockets, plus additional services under other contracts for payload processing, launch vehicle integration, and tracking, data and telemetry support.
The launches will be from Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The four payloads are the Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission, the Magnetospheric Multiscale mission, and the Tracking and Data Relay Satellites K and L, or TDRS-K and TDRS-L, missions.
Planned for launch in 2011, the NASA Radiation Belt Storm Probes mission uses two almost identical spacecraft built by the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. For two years, the twin probes will study the radiation belts surrounding Earth to improve our understanding of how the sun’s changing energy flow affects them.
Two new Tracking and Data Relay satellites will be launched, TDRS-K and TDRS-L, to replenish the NASA communications relay network that provides voice, data, video and telemetry links between spacecraft below geosynchronous orbit and the ground. Among the major users of the relay network are the International Space Station and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The launches are planned for 2012 and 2013.
The Magnetospheric Multiscale mission is a NASA space physics research effort to discover the fundamental plasma physics processes of magnetic reconnection that occurs when energy emanating from the sun’s solar wind interacts with the Earth’s magnetic field. Four identical satellites will be launched together in a stacked configuration. They will fly in an elliptical orbit around Earth. The Magnetospheric Multiscale Project is managed by NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., under a contract with the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. The launch is planned for 2014.
NASA’s Launch Services Program at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida manages launch services, including payload integration and certifying launch vehicles, for NASA’s use.