Space Newsfeed

NASA awards Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 contract

(11 December 2020 - NASA, Relativity Space, Firefly Black) NASA’s Launch Services Program (LSP) has awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 (VCLS Demo 2) contracts to launch small satellites (SmallSats) to space, including CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites.

The three companies selected to provide these commercial launch capabilities, and the value of their firm fixed-price contracts, are:

  • Astra Space of Alameda, California: $3.9 million
  • Relativity Space of Long Beach, California: $3.0 million
  • Firefly Black of Cedar Park, Texas: $9.8 million

SmallSats, including CubeSats, are playing an increasingly larger role in exploration, technology demonstration, scientific research, and educational investigations at NASA. These miniature satellites provide a low-cost platform for NASA missions.

LSP supports the agency’s CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) by providing launch opportunities to CubeSats that are awaiting launch. The VCLS Demo 2 contracts will launch CubeSats selected through the CSLI to demonstrate a launch capability for smaller payloads that NASA anticipates it will require on a recurring basis for future science missions.

The Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate has partnered with LSP to fund the VCLS Demo 2 contracts. These VCLS Demo 2 launches of small satellites can tolerate a higher level of risk than larger missions and will demonstrate – and help mitigate – risks associated with the use of new launch vehicles providing access to space for future small spacecraft and missions.

Relativity Space's launch will take place by June 30, 2022 from Relativity’s orbital launch site at Cape Canaveral LC-16 under this firm, fixed price contract. Under this award, Relativity will demonstrate its unique capabilities and sector-leading momentum by launching Terran 1, the first entirely 3D printed rocket.

“NASA’s efforts to expand launch options are vital for the future growth of space access. We appreciate NASA’s selection of our 3D printing approach for our launch vehicle, Terran 1,” said Tim Ellis, CEO and co-founder, Relativity Space.

Relativity is disrupting 60 years of aerospace, building an entirely new value chain to integrate 3D printing, artificial intelligence, and autonomous robotics. This factory of the future is a vertically integrated technology platform that enables Relativity to build and launch rockets in less than 60 days, with 100x fewer parts and a radically simplified supply chain. The company’s software-defined approach creates significantly higher reliability by introducing automation and reducing risk at every level of design, test and build. Relativity’s factory, its Terran 1 launch vehicle and Aeon 1 engine are completely designed, built, funded and operated in the United States.

Relativity continues to grow its customer manifest and public-private partnerships. This agreement marks the eighth announced launch customer for Relativity and the company’s second publicly announced government contract, following Relativity’s award as the launch partner for Lockheed Martin’s NASA Tipping Point Mission. In November of this year, the company announced its $500M Series D financing, accelerating its commercialization, production scaling and long-term development. This fundraising milestone followed significant technical, commercial, infrastructure and team momentum as Relativity continues to pioneer an inevitable shift toward software-defined manufacturing in aerospace and beyond.

Firefly Black's Mission Two involves the launch of two CubeSat constellations to a 550 km Sun- Synchronous Orbit, separated by a minimum of 10 degrees in plane change.

“Firefly Black is pleased to have been selected by NASA for this operationally challenging mission. We applaud NASA’s commitment to the nation’s emerging small launch industrial base and look forward to supporting America’s civil space launch needs for many years,” said Leslie Kovacs, company President. “The all-private development of our Alpha launch vehicle, and the impending completion of our Space Launch Complex 2 conversion at Vandenberg AFB, are on schedule to support the maiden Firefly Alpha launch in the first quarter of 2021. The men and women of Firefly, and our supply chain partners, are excited by this partnership with NASA.”

Firefly Black will bridge demand between pure small launch capability and that provided by the National Security Space Launch program by providing a family of small-to-medium launchers and in-space transportation services.

About Relativity

Relativity is building humanity’s multiplanetary future. We invented a new approach to design, build, and fly our own rockets, starting with Terran 1 – the world’s first entirely 3D printed rocket.

As a vertically integrated technology platform, Relativity is at the forefront of an inevitable shift toward software-defined manufacturing. By fusing 3D printing, artificial intelligence and autonomous robotics, we are pioneering the factory of the future. Disrupting 60 years of aerospace, Relativity offers a radically simplified supply chain, building a rocket with 100x fewer parts in less than 60 days.

We believe in a future where interplanetary life fundamentally expands the possibilities for human experience. Our long-term vision is to upgrade humanity’s industrial base on Earth and on Mars.

Relativity Space is backed by leading investors including Baillie Gifford, BOND, Fidelity, General Catalyst, ICONIQ Capital, K5 Global, Mark Cuban, Playground Global, Social Capital, Tiger Global, Tribe Capital, Y Combinator, and 3L.

About Firefly Black

Firefly Black, LLC is the national security and civil space subsidiary of Firefly Aerospace. Firefly Black provides launch services to Department of Defense, intelligence community, and civil space customers seeking small-to-medium launch solutions for up to ten metric tons of payload to low earth orbit (LEO). Utilizing Firefly Aerospace’s Alpha and Beta launch vehicles and Space Utility Vehicle, Firefly Black provides America with industry leading capability at the lowest cost/kg in the emerging small launch vehicle class. Headquartered in Washington, DC, Firefly Black also performs Legislative and Executive Branch outreach and advocacy supporting the small satellite and small launch industries.