Monday, April 17, 2023

NASA seeks contractor to provide launch imagery due to budget reductions

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center issued a Request for Information (RFI) document last month for the purpose of seeking sources and soliciting information from private industry on obtaining launch ascent imagery “as a service on an as-needed basis” for the agency’s Exploration Ground Systems (EGS) Program vehicle launches.

The agency said in the RFI, “Reductions in program budgets and a reduced launch manifest have driven the EGS Communications Office to request information for a possible procurement of launch ascent imagery as a service.”

With a general cadence of one launch per year, the goal would be to obtain this capability from commercial entities that are able to provide a viable service, NASA said.

The agency made clear the RFI is for information and planning purposes only and to allow the industry the opportunity to verify the reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. “This RFI is used solely for information planning purposes and does not constitute a solicitation.”

The Launch Ascent Imagery contract service will potentially replace the currently utilized mobile Kineto Tracking Mounts/Ascent Imagery Systems.  “We are seeking to modernize the capability to capture optical imagery of launches, provide high-resolution imagery of local flight test events and offer situational awareness to launch personnel,” NASA said in the RFI.

Services provided under the contract would include:

Long-Range Tracked Imagery: acquire and deliver launch imagery from a site that is located between five and 40 miles away from the launch pad. Imagery acquisition timeframe for Long Range Tracked Imagery is typically from T-0 (or acquisition of vehicle) through loss of sight but must include imagery of Solid Rocket Booster separation.

Flexible: mobilization of launch ascent imagery systems within no less than 24 hours prior to the mission launch.

Remotely operable: launch ascent imagery that will allow remote operations control of optical tracking systems.

Multi-spectral imaging support: systems that deliver high-speed visual imagery, infrared imagery, and multi-focal length imagery.

Multi-tracking: optical tracking systems that will generate test data on several targets simultaneously from multiple deployed locations.

Short-Range Tracked Imagery: acquire and deliver launch imagery from approximately 1,200 feet from the launch vehicle. Imagery acquisition equipment is usually located inside the Pad B perimeter fence and typically acquires first motion to loss of view. The imagery acquisition timeframe for Short Range Tracked Imagery is typically from T-10 seconds through loss of sight.  Due to the proximity to Pad B, any imagery acquisition equipment must be remotely operated.

Medium-Range Tracked Imagery: acquire and deliver launch imagery from a site that is located approximately five miles from the launch pad. The imagery acquisition timeframe for Medium-Range Tracked Imagery is typically from T-0 through loss of sight. The medium-range sites may or may not be in the Blast Danger or Flight Caution Areas which will potentially limit personnel access.

The Launch Abort System (LAS) Tracked Imagery: unique in that an activation of the LAS can happen at any moment after the system is armed.  Upon activation, the separation will occur at a high rate of speed.

NASA invited companies interested in providing the service to submit a response to the RFI by April 28.

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