As part of the agency’s Rideshare (VADR) launch services contract and Venture-Class Acquisition of Dedicated, NASA has given a task order to Blue Origin, LLC of Kent, Washington, to provide launch service for the agency’s Escape and Plasma Acceleration and Dynamics Explorers (ESCAPADE) mission.
The company’s response to other companies’ heavy-lift vehicles, such as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy, is the New Glenn vehicle. Blue Origin’s first launch was originally scheduled for 2020, and NASA gave the company permission to launch future unmanned scientific and investigation missions that year. However, the date kept getting postponed. In 2021 and again in 2022, it was postponed. Jarrett Jones, SVP for New Glenn at Blue Origin, acknowledged that the vehicle wouldn’t fly first time in 2022 and that the business was working to set a new deadline by the end of March of last year.
At Florida’s Space Launch Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Complex-36, Blue Origin’s New Glenn rocket will blast off with the ESCAPADE spacecraft. The launch is planned for 2024. One of the 13 businesses chosen by NASA for VADR agreements in 2022 is Blue Origin. The VADR contracts are managed by NASA’s Launch Services Program, which is situated at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The five-year ordering period for the fixed-price indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity VADR contracts has a maximum aggregate value of $300 million for all contracts.
The magnetized region of space surrounding Mars is being studied by ESCAPADE utilizing two identical tiny spacecraft that will conduct simultaneous two-point measurements. The mission will aid in improving our knowledge of how the solar wind interacts with the magnetosphere and how plasma and energy enter and exit the magnetosphere. A magnetometer to detect the magnetic field, an electrostatic analyzer to estimate the ions and electrons, and a Langmuir probe to monitor the plasma density and solar severe ultraviolet flux will all be carried by each satellite.
After leaving Earth’s orbit, ESCAPADE will take about 11 months to reach Mars. Once the spacecraft will spend some time adjusting its orbits so that they are in the best possible position to collect data on the magnetosphere. Scientists can better predict space weather, which can shield satellites and people as they circle Earth and examine the solar system, by studying various magnetospheres. The NASA Small Missions for Planetary Exploration program includes ESCAPADE.
For payloads that can withstand greater risk, VADR offers FAA-licensed commercial launch services, building on NASA’s prior procurement initiatives to encourage the growth of new launch vehicles for NASA payloads. These very flexible contracts aid in extending access to space by lowering launch costs by utilizing a meagerer level of mission confirmation and commercial best practices for launching rockets.