In an effort to support the development of dedicated small-satellite launch vehicles and help reduce a backlog of more than 50 CubeSats that are waiting to fly, NASA has published a solicitation for a CubeSat launch.
The program — known as the NASA Launch Services (NLS) Enabling eXploration & Technology or NEXT — is aimed at securing a launch vehicle capable of placing three 3U sized Cubesats weighing a minimum of 15 kg (33 lbs) to a minimum orbit of 425 km (264 miles).
The launch vehicle would have to deliver CubeSats as the primary payloads. Currently, most CubeSats are launch as secondary payloads on large rockets. The contract would cover a single launch no later than December 15, 2016.
NASA’s decision to purchase a dedicated CubeSat launch is intended to help support the development of small satellite launch vehicles now being funded by private companies, DARPA, the U.S. Army, and other agencies and organizations.
The table below shows dedicated small satellite launch vehicles currently under development or proposed by U.S. companies.