NASA looks to commercialize Near Space through private sector services

NASAs Artemis I Moon rocket sits at Launch Pad Complex 39B at Kennedy Space Center, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on June 15, 2022. (Photo by Eva Marie UZCATEGUI / AFP via Getty Images)

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NASA continues to encourage development of commercial communications and navigation services for itself and spaceflight companies with a forthcoming contract supporting robotic spacecraft and human exploration missions as far out as 2 million kilometers.

The Near Space Network (NSN) Services contract will run 10 years with an estimated ceiling of $542 million and consist of multiple task order awards, according to the draft request for proposals (RFP).

NASA‘s Goddard Space Flight Center issued the draft RFP on behalf of the Exploration and Space Communications projects division, which assists its Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN) program overseeing networks, advanced comms tech and spacecraft-to-ground connectivity. NSN serves missions in low-Earth, medium-Earth, geostationary and lunar orbit.

“The objective is to foster the commercialization of the Near Space region through increased private sector participation in providing communications and navigation services in the Near Space region,” reads the cover letter, written by contracting officer Sang Lee.

NASA’s other goals for the contract are ensuring astronaut safety; meeting latency and accuracy requirements; and regularly incorporating new NSN services, technology upgrades, and improved processes and products. To that end, the solicitation will occasionally be reopened to onboard more vendors.

Awards will be made between two categories:

  • Category 1 covers direct-to-Earth services — supporting orbital and sub-orbital science, technology, and human spaceflight missions by allowing ground assets to provide line-of-sight communications and tracking — with awards expected in May 2023.
  • Category 2 covers relay services — supporting customer missions, spacecraft and payloads by transmitting critical mission data between space assets and ground stations — with awards expected in March 2023.

NASA will first prioritize technical acceptability on a pass-fail basis, followed by past performance and price, when making awards. Vendors may be required to have top secret/sensitive compartmented information clearance.

The contract consists of five-year base and option periods.

NASA will hold an NSN Services industry day on July 27, 2022.

Industry has until July 20, 2022, to ask questions regarding the draft RFP and until July 29, 2022, to submit comments on the solicitation.

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Communications, data, Goddard Space Flight Center, NASA, Near Space Network (NSN), Space Communications and Navigation (SCaN)
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