NASA Issues RFI for Commercial Payloads to Mars

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA’s goals for human deep space exploration are complex and ambitious. To maximize resources as it pushes the boundaries of exploration, the agency is exploring opportunities to take advantage of emerging private sector space capabilities.

NASA released a request for information Monday regarding possible commercial sources to fly limited payloads on planned, non-NASA missions to Mars. The agency will use the responses to gather market data on the complete spectrum of commercial plans, and identify any excess capacity that may exist for NASA payloads.

Furthering NASA’s human deep space exploration goals will require a significant amount of scientific research, and opportunities to collect data on Mars have been rare. Only seven successful missions to the surface of Mars have taken place in the history of spaceflight.

Evolving capabilities in the private sector have opened the possibility for NASA to take advantage of commercial opportunities to land scientific payloads on the surface of the Red Planet. Such capability would provide an additional method of acquiring science and engineering data concerning Mars, and would complement NASA’s current deep space exploration efforts.

  • JamesG

    “NASA’s goals for human deep space exploration are complex and ambitious.”

    That is putting it… politely.

    “NASA released a request for information Monday regarding possible commercial sources to fly limited payloads on planned, non-NASA missions to Mars.”

    IOW- Blazing the paper-trail for “Red Dragon”.

  • savuporo

    There are multiple other non-NASA missions headed for Mars, in collaboration with NASA. ExoMars, UAE immediately come to mind. Then, Chinese in 2020, obviously in no direct cooperation.

    In other news, last summer NASA awarded 5 study contracts to satellite builders for commercial comsat derived Mars orbiter architecture aka NeMO for 2020, with results supposedly due in about 4-5 months. What happened ?

  • JamesG

    Paper studies are usually a way of burning up funds before the end of the fiscal year and/or throwing money around. Most of them wind up filed in the round can read by few.

  • therealdmt

    It seems Red Dragon’s payload capacity would basically dwarf NASA previous scientific payload capacity (by weight, excluding the weight of the delivery structure) delivered to the surface of Mars. Of course, SpaceX has to perform the little trick of successfully landing one first (among other things). Further, the payload could possibly be pressurized and temperature/humidity controlled inside Dragon, though simple exposure to Mars atmosphere may be more desireable for most experiment.

    Meanwhile, costs to catch a ride should be dramatically lower than for a similarly sized completely NASA-led effort. A whole new era for Mars science could be opening up

  • Terry Stetler

    “IOW- Blazing the paper-trail for “Red Dragon”.”
    True, but it’s so generically worded it could also open the door for ITS participation, with “limited” being open to both interpretation and relativism. Is 5 seats of a crew of 20 “limited”? 30-50 of 400 tonnes?

  • JamesG

    Or flying carpets. 😉

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, this is a part of the swamp that needs draining. But it will be hard since government agencies are so used to it.

  • ThomasLMatula

    I wonder how they would respond to a request to send genetically engineered microorganisms designed to released CO2 to start the process of terraforming 🙂

  • duheagle

    I think you mean consume CO2.

  • duheagle

    I’m more winged horse guy myself.

  • JamesG

    CO2 would be more useful on Mars initially. Free O2 would probably just react with the rocks or float off the planet, where as CO2 will thicken and warm at the surface.