SMC Announces Plan to Award Contracts for 12 Rideshare Launches to 6 Companies

LauncherOne operated in powered flight for only seconds before an anomaly shut it down after being dropped from the Cosmic Girl Boeing 747. (Credit; Virgin Orbit)

In an effort to support its industrial based during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC) has announced its intention to award 12 small satellite rideshare launches to six companies.

The awards will be made to:

  • Aevum
  • Astra
  • Rocket Lab USA
  • Space Vector
  • VOX Space
  • X-Bow.

Each company will be awarded a firm-fixed contract for two launches to orbit government payloads. Each contract will have a performance period of 24 months.

Rocket Lab is the only company to have successfully placed satellites into orbit. The company has launched its Electron booster 12 times with 11 successes and one failure, which occurred on the booster’s first flight test.

VOX Space will use Virgin Orbit’s LauncherOne, which failed on its maiden flight last month. VOX Space is a subsidiary of Virgin Orbit created for military launches

Astra has launched several times without placing any payloads into orbit. Aevum, Space Vector and X-Bow have not attempted any orbital launches.

The Department of Defense’s Industrial Base Council (IBC) directed SMC to make the awards in support of the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

CARES provided $1 billion in Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III funding “to ensure the timely availability of industrial resources and critical technology items that are essential for national defense,” according to SMC’s public notice of intent.