WASHINGTON — A contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force to small launch provider Rocket Lab for several missions in 2019 is part of a larger effort to use commercial suppliers and rapid procurement methods in space programs, officials said on Wednesday.
The Air Force is seeing a growing demand for smaller satellites “that need an affordable ride to space,” Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the Launch Enterprise Systems Directorate at the Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, told reporters during a conference call.
“That is what our small launch division in Albuquerque [New Mexico] is doing,” Bongiovi said.
Much of the demand is being generated by the DoD Space Test Program, which is responsible to secure launches for experimental spacecraft that are smaller and far less expensive than traditional military satellites that are launched aboard big rockets under the National Security Space Launch program.
The DoD Space Test Program, located at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, is part of Space and Missile Systems Center’s Space Development Corps.
The Space Test Program awarded Rocket Lab the STP-27RD mission in October 2017. Three satellites will be launched to low Earth orbit later this month from Mahia, New Zealand, using ...