The NASA Enabling eXploration and Technology (NEXT) program has selected Generation Orbit Launch Services, Inc. to launch a group of three 3U CubeSats to a 425 km orbit in 2016. Under the $2.1M commercial procurement, NASA will become the inaugural customer for the company’s GOLauncher 2 vehicle, which is currently in development.
The GOLauncher 2 is a flexible air-launched system combining a business jet with expendable rocket stages. The Generation Orbit team includes SpaceWorks Enterprises Inc., Ventions LLC, Calspan Corporation, Tyvak Nano-satellite Systems LLC, and mv2space LLC. GO also has key strategic relationships with the Air Force Research Laboratory and the Georgia Tech Manufacturing Institute. Cecil Field Spaceport in Jacksonville, Florida will serve as GO’s initial base of operations.
“This is a important step for the GO team,” said Dr. John Olds, Generation Orbit co-founder and CEO. “NASA has been pro-active on the spacecraft side of this emerging market for years. Their decision to buy the first flight of our GOLauncher 2 is not only an endorsement of our business model as a dedicated launch service provider, but simultaneously helps reduce risk for our subsequent customers and investors. We look forward to working with NASA LSP to make this launch successful, and we hope to count them amongst our key customers for years to come.”
Small satellites (including microsatellites, nanosatellites, and CubeSats) are the fastest growing segment of the spacecraft market. By 2020, the market for small satellite launch is projected to exceed 150 spacecraft per year. Currently, small spacecraft “hitchhike” to space as secondary payloads aboard larger rockets, but this model introduces delays and constrains flexibility of launch, which is unacceptable to many commercial businesses. Dedicated launch services such as GOLauncher 2 hope to shift the paradigm toward small launchers for small satellites.
“We’ve built our business from the ground up to serve the small satellite market, and we are very pleased to have our first customer for GOLauncher 2,” added Mr. A.J. Piplica, GO’s Chief Operating Officer. “We look forward to providing a new, dedicated launch option for these small payloads, enabling them to accomplish new missions and greatly enhance their scientific, educational, and economic potential.”