A New Agreement for Commercial Launch Vehicles

This week, NASA signed an agreement with the US Air Force and the National Reconnaissance Office to establish common criteria for certification of commercial providers of launch vehicles used for national security space and civil space missions. The new certification strategy is the latest step in a cooperative effort by the Air Force, NASA and NRO to take advantage of new launch capability for the three agencies’ missions. This agreement also supports President Obama’s recent directive that executive departments and agencies should use innovative tools, methods, and systems to cooperate among themselves.

NASA has been a leader in building innovative ways to purchase commercial launches of our science payloads, and at the same time, helping grow the American launch sector. This agreement means that we will share a common framework and language for communicating expectations to new launch service providers. We believe this common strategy will make it easier for new providers to enter the launch market, while maintaining the high safety standards for government missions.

A strong commercial launch sector is critical to our country’s economy, just as a reliable, safe launch capability is critical to civil and national security space missions.

NASA has a successful history of purchasing launch vehicles from commercial providers for science payloads. While we have different mission requirements than our colleagues at the NRO and USAF, our need for reliable launch vehicles is the same. Together we are building on common experience to create a framework that will help us work with new launch providers, and create an American-built space sector that leads the world in launch capabilities.