The U.S. National Reconnaissance Office, known for buying gigantic, “exquisite” spy satellites, is learning to think small for some of its needs.
“We want to explore what the tiny rocket marketplace can provide for us,” NRO Director Betty Sapp told an audience here at the Space Symposium on Tuesday.
She was referring to the burgeoning marketplace of small launch vehicles.
On April 23, the agency will issue a final request for proposals to industry for “Rapid Acquisition of a Small Rocket,” with bids due at the end of May. This follows a draft request for proposal published in March. The NRO told me this is the first time the agency’s Office of Space Launch will procure a rocket exclusively to launch small satellites.
The agency aims to award contracts in June for the winning companies to complete the project in time for a June 2019 launch.
Sapp said there were many responses to the draft request, and that “the one universal comment” was distaste for the term “tiny rockets.”