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About the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge
  • Safe, low-cost, small payload delivery system for frequent access to Earth orbit.
  • Innovations in propulsion and other technologies as well as operations and management for broader applications in future launch systems.
  • A commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites at a cost comparable to secondary payload launches--a potential new market with Government, commercial, and academic customers.
Allied Organization:
Space Florida Small Satellite Research Center
Cape Canaveral, Florida

Preliminary Description (subject to revision after formulation of detailed rules)

Deliver a payload with a mass of at least 1 kilogram and dimensions of at least 10x10x11 centimeters to Earth orbit, complete at least one orbit past the launch site and deliver payloads successfully at least two times in one week.

The specified payload matches the standard 1U CubeSat. One orbit past the launch site imposes an absolute minimum orbital velocity requirement and an injection maneuver to achieve orbit. Repeatability within a time constraint deters one-time stunts that would not lead to a useful launch capability. This is anticipated to be a first-to-demonstrate challenge.

Allied Organizations will have to verify that payloads have been placed in orbit via ground tracking or other means, which might be done through partnerships with NASA, the U.S. Air Force, private entities or through sponsorships. Range safety costs and procedures will be a critical issue for competitors, but some existing and new ranges may offer incentives to attract competitors. The Federal Aviation Administration will have an important role in permitting and/or licensing of competitors.

Prize Purse

$2 million is available from the Centennial Challenges Program. If additional prize funds become available from the Government or other sources, a second-place prize and supplemental prizes might be offered for the primary objective or additional accomplishments.