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NRO, NASA, Air Force Declare Open Competition for Space Launches

NASA photo

The National Reconnaissance Office, NASA and the U.S. Air Force are attempting to encourage more companies to seek contracts with new guideline for certifying commercial launch vehicles to send payloads into space and complete Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle missions, as reported by Signal Online.

The guideline combines similar practices while allowing each agency to include their own criteria.

The strategy is based on NASA’s existing certification model, the NPD 8610.7, which balances payload risk tolerance with launch vehicle risk. Through the strategy, the three agencies will attempt to share as much data, findings and lessons learned to allow greater efficiency.

Jim Norman, NASA’s director of launch services, indicated that the agreement to develop a collaborative strategy represents the existence of a good inter-agency relationship and that the competition element is a way to reduce long term cost.

The new common strategy uses both risk classification and tolerance in assessing each payload and is then left to the discretion of the responsible agency.

“This risk mitigation strategy requires a certification process for each ‘common launch vehicle configuration’ commensurate with the risk classification of each payload,” the strategy says.

Assessments balance missions critically against launch vehicle flight history, flight anomaly, mission failure resolution and the technical insight into the new entrant’s design, qualification, testing, systems engineering, manufacturing and processing. Payloads also are risk-categorized based cost, complexity and national significance.

“We’re trying to execute our own responsibility for our missions for the nation and do it in a coordinated way that makes sense,” said Norman. “We know that industry is looking for some consistency and we believe that this common framework will help us provide that while still allowing us to execute our individual missions and individual agency responsibilities.”

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