SpaceX, ULA Split Pair of NASA Launch Contracts

Falcon 9 on the launch pad with Intelsat 35e satellite. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

WASHINGTON, DC (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the Sentinel-6A mission. Launch is currently targeted for November 2020, on a SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

NASA also has selected United Launch Services LLC (ULS) of Centennial, Colorado, to provide launch services for the Landsat 9 mission. The mission is currently targeted for a contract launch date of June 2021, while protecting for the ability to launch as early as December 2020, on an Atlas V 401 rocket from Space Launch Complex 3E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The total cost for NASA to launch Sentinel-6A is approximately $97 million, which includes the launch service and other mission related costs.

The total cost for NASA to launch Landsat 9 is approximately $153.8 million, which includes the launch service and other mission-related costs.

Sentinel 6-A

The Sentinel-6A mission, also known as Jason Continuity of Service (Jason-CS), is a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the European Space Agency, and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).

This mission provides operational ocean altimetry to provide continuity of ocean topography measurements and continues the long-term global sea surface height data record begun in 1992 by the Topography Experiment (TOPEX)/Poseidon and Jason 1, the Ocean Surface Topography Mission (OSTM)/Jason-2 and Jason-3 missions.

A secondary objective of the mission is to collect high-resolution vertical profiles of temperature, using the Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) Radio-Occultation sounding technique, to assess temperature changes in the troposphere and stratosphere and to support numerical weather prediction.

The Sentinel-6 Project office is located at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Landsat 9

Landsat 9 is a partnership between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to continue the Landsat program’s critical role in monitoring, understanding, and managing the land resources needed to sustain human life.

Today’s increased rates of global land cover and land use change have profound consequences for weather and climate change, ecosystem function and services, carbon cycling and sequestration, resource management, the national and global economy, and human health and society.  Landsat is the only U.S. satellite system designed and operated to repeatedly make multi-spectral observations of the global land surface at a moderate scale that shows both natural and human-induced change.

The Landsat 9 Flight Project office is located at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, and manages spacecraft development for the agency’s Science Mission Directorate in partnership with USGS in Washington.

NASA’s Launch Services Program at Kennedy Space Center in Florida will manage the SpaceX and ULS launch services.

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  • Mr Snarky Answer

    $153.8 million for Atlas V 401…nice.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    ULA is missing a trick here – they could sub-contract an F9 from SpaceX to boost their profit margin. But you’re right. getting $154M for half a Falcon 9 performance is a good deal for ULA.