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The competition heats up: NASA today announced the award of contracts to eight small companies to develop new technologies for the advancement of smallsat launch capabilities.
The contracts cover a wide range of launch concepts, from testing new imaging technology for spotting asteroids to new rocket engine development to new rocket designs. The key component however of all these contracts is this:
These fixed-priced contracts include milestone payments tied to technical progress and require a minimum 25 percent industry contribution, though all awards are contingent on the availability of appropriated funding. The contracts are worth a combined total of approximately $17 million, and each have an approximate two-year performance period culminating in a small spacecraft orbital demonstration mission or the maturation of small launch vehicle technologies.
In other words, the companies have to provide some of the funding, since the technology being developed will benefit them. They also will only be paid once they meet certain milestones, and any cost overages will be their responsibility. The result? The U.S. has the chance of giving birth to eight new space companies, all with cutting edge technology that can compete in the new launch market. And the country gets this for a measly $17 million.