The Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated and Rideshare (VADR) launch services is a new NASA program launched in 2021 to procure commercial launch services. The VADR program has $300 million available to procure commercial launch services over the next five years.
Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS)
The VADR program builds on previous NASA commercial launch services procurement efforts from 2015 to 2021 – specifically the VCLS, CAPSTONE, VCLS Demo 2, and TROPICS contracts.
NASA’s pre-VADR efforts were focused on developing new emerging commercial domestic launch vehicles before their first flight, and fostering the development of the US commercial launch services industry.
The main purpose of the VADR program is to procure commercial FAA licensed launch services capable of delivering payloads to a variety of orbits, including escape trajectories. VADR’s scope includes both dedicated and rideshare launch services. The program is administered by the NASA Launch Services Program organization.
VADR supports the rapid acquisition of commercial launch services for NASA payloads and NASA sponsored payloads. The program will support payloads that include cubesats (e.g. from NASA’s Cubesat Launch Initiative) and Class D missions (e.g. EVM and SMEX).
In order to reduce costs, NASA will use commercial mission management practices, with lightweight NASA oversight (consistent with NPD 8610.23 Attachment C).
NASA issued the RFP for VADR on May 22, 2021 and announced selected vendors on January 20, 2022.
Under the VADR program, fixed-price Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity (IDIQ) contracts are being established with launch service providers to support future task orders.
The vendors selected for VADR IDIQ contracts include a range of established and emerging launch service providers and launch service aggregators and brokers:
- ABL Space Systems
- Astra Space
- Blue Origin
- L2 Solutions
- Northrop Grumman
- Phantom Space
- Relativity Space
- Rocket Lab
- Spaceflight Inc.
- United Launch Services
- Virgin Orbit
All contracts have a five-year lifetime, with a maximum total value of $300 million across all contracts. Additional launch service providers may be added to VADR in the future.
This is a major step forward for NASA on the path towards general adoption of commercial launch services. The next logical step will be for NASA to provide a streamlined process for commercial launch service providers to qualify their vehicles for carrying payloads categorized Class A to Class C.
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Additional information for the curious
12 Companies to Provide Venture Class Launch Services to NASA (January 26, 2022)
NASA Awards Launch Service Contract for TROPICS Mission to Study Storm Processes (February 21, 2021)
NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Services Demonstration 2 Contract (December 11, 2020)
NASA Awards Contract to Launch Cubesat to Moon From Virginia (February 14, 2020)
NASA Awards Venture Class Launch Services Contracts for Cubesat Satellites (October 15, 2015)