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Launch Services Program (LSP) is responsible for NASA oversight of launch operations and countdown management, providing added quality and mission assurance in lieu of the requirement for the launch service provider to obtain a commercial launch license. It operates under the Human Exploration and Operations (HEO) Mission Directorate of NASA.

Since 1990, NASA has purchased expendable launch vehicle (ELV) launch services directly from commercial providers, whenever possible, for its scientific and applications missions. ELVs can accommodate all types of orbit inclinations and altitudes and are ideal vehicles for launching Earth-orbit and interplanetary missions. The Launch Services Program was established at Kennedy Space Center for NASA’s acquisition and program management of ELV missions. A NASA/contractor team is in place to meet the mission of the Launch Services Program, which exists to provide leadership, expertise and cost-effective services in the commercial arena to satisfy Agency wide space transportation requirements and maximize the opportunity for mission success.[1]

Primary launch sites are Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) in Florida, and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California. Other launch locations are NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, Reagan Test Site at Kwajalein Atoll in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska.

In 2012, the program posted electronic copies of its brochure[2] and poster.[3]


Spacecraft CustomersEdit

Launch Vehicle Contractors (LVC)Edit

The Launch Services Program (LSP) is currently awarding new contracts under the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II Contract.[4] Once a year, new launch vehicles can be on (or off) ramped onto the contract.[5] The following vehicles are attached to the NLS II Contract.

NASA has specific polices governing launch services.[8] LSP Flight Design provides general information regarding the launch vehicle performance available via existing NASA contracts.[9] This information is all available on publicly available websites.


LSP also works with the Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), via coordination by the LVCs. For launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) and Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB), the 45th Space Wing and 30th Space Wing commanders, respectively, are the Launch Decision Authority.[10]

For launches from CCAFS, "Airmen, Air Force civilians and contractors from throughout the 45th Space Wing provided vital support, including weather forecasts, launch and range operations, security, safety, medical and public affairs. The wing also provided its vast network of radar, telemetry, and communications instrumentation to facilitate a safe launch on the Eastern Range."[11] Among work done by AFSPC is Mission Flight Control, which ensures public safety during launch.[12]

The weather conditions acceptable for launch vary by rocket and even the configurations of the rocket.[13][14][15][16] Prior to liftoff are multiple sets of acceptable weather conditions that depend on the state of the rocket, particularly where the rocket is in the fuel loading process.

Launch HistoryEdit


Upcoming LaunchesEdit

The schedule below includes only Launch Services Program (LSP) primary and advisory missions. The NASA Launch Schedule has the most up to date schedule of all NASA launches. The NASA KSC News Releases will also have updates on LSP launches and mission accomplishments. NASA Launch Services Manifest will show all missions on the manifest.

NET No Earlier Than (Tentative)
(U/R) Under Review
+ LSP Advisory Mission
* The total cost for NASA to launch the mission includes the launch service, spacecraft processing, payload integration, tracking, data and telemetry, mission unique launch site ground support, and other launch support requirements. All costs listed are approximate. Some spacecraft were awarded as a group, which is why their cost is listed as 1 of a number of spacecraft. Unless the reference specifies otherwise, the value is at award (i.e. when the launch service contract is signed) and does not account for additional costs due to delays and other factors or any cost savings that may have occurred later.
Scheduled Launch Date Mission Vehicle Launch Site Total Launch Cost* (million)
2016.09.08 Origins Spectral Interpretation Resource Identification Security Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx) Atlas V-411 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41) $183.5[17]
2016.10.14 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) Atlas V-541 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41) 1 of 2 for $446[18]
2016.10.17 Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) Pegasus XL Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) $55[19]
2017.01.20 Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) Delta II 7920 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W) 1 of 3 for $412[20]
2017.06.15 Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) Pegasus XL Reagan Test Site $56.3[21]
2017.08 Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) + Dnepr Baikonur Cosmodrome
2017.08 Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Falcon 9 v1.1 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (CCAFS SLC-40) $87[22]
2017.10 Tracking and Data Relay Satellite-M (TDRS-M) (DR) Atlas V-401 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41) $132.4[23]
2017.10.31 Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) Delta II 7420 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W) $96.6[24]
NET 2017.04 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) Atlas V-541 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41) 1 of 2 for $446[18]
2018.05.05[25] Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport (InSight) [Mars Lander] Atlas V-401 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 East (VAFB SLC-3E) $160[26]
2018.07.31 Solar Probe Plus (SPP) Delta IV Heavy Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 (CCAFS SLC-37) $389.1[27]
2018.10 Solar Orbiter Atlas V-411 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41) $172.7[28]
2018.10 James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) +[29] Ariane 5 ECA Guiana Space Centre ELA-3
Beyond 2018
2019.04 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-T (GOES-T) Vehicle Unassigned (intermediate)
2020.07 Mars 2020 Vehicle Unassigned (intermediate/heavy)
2020.10 Surface Water Ocean Topography (SWOT) Vehicle Unassigned (medium)
2020/2021 NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NI-SAR) + Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) Mark II Satish Dhawan Space Centre
2021.07 Joint Polar Satellite System-2 (JPSS-2) Vehicle Unassigned (medium)


Launching RocketsEdit

The engineers at NASA's Launch Services Program are rocket experts. Below are some examples of jobs within LSP that NASA has written articles on.

  • Flight Design analysts work on the intended course, or trajectory, of the rocket.[30][31]
  • Telemetry engineers get tracking stations to cover all the mandatory portions of flight.[30][32] Analysts from many disciplines review this data post-flight.
  • Weather Forecasters Balance Experience with Technology
  • The Failure Analysis and Materials Evaluation Lab assists the program by examining failures and figuring out what went wrong [33]


Members of the Launch Services Program perform research relating to launching unmanned NASA spacecraft.[34] Research topics include (partial list):

Slosh Fluid Dynamics ExperimentsEdit


File:SLOSH full assembly iss038e033889sideways.jpg

SPHERES-Slosh Experiment will be performed on the SPHERES Testbed on the International Space Station. The experiment launched on the Cygnus capsule going to the ISS via Orbital Sciences Corporation Commercial Resupply Services Orb-1 mission on an Antares on 2014.01.09.[41][42][43][44] The Cygnus arrived at the ISS on 2014.01.12 and will spend five weeks unloading the cargo.[45]

The SPHERES-Slosh investigation uses small robotic satellites on the International Space Station to examine how liquids move around inside containers in microgravity. A water bottle’s contents slosh around differently in space than on Earth, but the physics of liquid motion in microgravity are not well understood, which affects computer simulations of liquid rocket fuel behavior. LSP leads a team that includes Florida Institute of Technology[46][47][48] and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The research is sponsored by the Game Changing Development (GCD) program (within NASA Technology Demonstration Office (TDO)’s Space Technology Mission Directorate).[49] [50][51] [52][53] [54]

The experiment is a water tank with cameras and sensors that will be mounted between two SPHERES satellites inside the ISS. During testing, the SPHERES will move to purposely agitate the water and cause the fluid inside to slosh around, like it might in a rocket or spacecraft tank during flight. The data collected will be one of a kind. Three initial tests are expected to happen with the first couple months of launch.

"The current inability to accurately predict fuel and oxidizer behavior can result in unnecessary caution, requiring extra propellant to be added along with additional helium for tank pressurization. A better understanding of fluid slosh could not only decrease this uncertainty, but increase efficiency, reduce costs and allow additional payloads to be launched."[55] Understanding from this experiment could help improve design/operations of rocket tanks and control systems.

NASA’s Brandon Marsell, co-principal investigator on the Slosh Project: “Modern computer models try to predict how liquid moves inside a propellant tank. Now that rockets are bigger and are going farther, we need more precise data. Most of the models we have were validated under 1 g conditions on Earth. None have been validated in the surface tension-dominated microgravity environment of space.” (via Langley Research Center article[56])

Slosh is the first project on the ISS to use 3D printed materials for its experiment. NASA's Jacob Roth, project manager on the Slosh Project, on the first science session: "The results from our first checkout run are proving interesting. While not too unexpected, the bubble/liquid interaction behavior appears to be exhibiting a slightly different interaction than current models predict." The team will be altering the tests for the second session based on the preliminary results.[57]


The 2008-2010 slosh related tests on SPHERES were performed with a single SPHERES spacecraft and, in some cases, the addition of a battery pack Velcroed on to the SPHERES spacecraft. These tests were to better understand the physical properties of the SPHERES spacecraft, notably the mass properties, prior adding any tanks to the system.[58] Some of the tests also attempted to excite and then sense slosh within the SPHERES CO2 tank. Florida Tech designed the slosh experiments for Test Sessions 18/20/24/25.

Date Session Slosh-related Tests on the SPHERES ISS Testbed Report ISS Expedition Media
2008.09.27 13 P221 Tests 2 & 5: Fuel Slosh – Sat only & Batt Proof Mass [59] 17
2008.10.27 14 P236, Tests 7 & 8: Fluid Slosh, Rotate 2: Sat Only & Batt Proof Mass [60] 18
2009.07.11 16 P251, Test 2 Fluid Slosh - X Nutation & Test 3 Fluid Slosh - Rotation Rate High [61] 20
2009.08.15 18 P264, Tests A/2, B/3 Fluid Slosh - Z Motion Fluid Slosh (full tank/partially used tank) [62] 20
2009.12.05 20 P20A, Fluid Slosh Test 3/4: Z Reverse T1/T2, Test 5/6: Fluid Slosh Spin Z Forward/Reverse [63] 21
2010.10.07 24 P24A, Tests 4/5: Fluid Slosh: Lateral/Circular Motion [64] 25
2010.10.28 25 P311, Tests 2/3/5: Fluid Slosh: Z Translation/X Translation/X Rotation [65] 25
2014.01.22 54 Slosh Checkout (1st SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 38 Expedition 38 Image Gallery[66][67][68]
2014.02.28 58 Slosh Science 1 (2nd SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 38
2014.06.18 60 Slosh Science 2 (3rd SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 40 Expedition 40 Image Gallery[69]
2015.07 Slosh Science 3 (4th SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 44
2015.08.07 Slosh Science 4 (5th SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 44 [70]
2015.09.10 77 Slosh Science 5 (6th SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 45 [71]
2015.11.12[72] Slosh Science 6 (7th SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 45

The Cryogenic Orbital Testbed (CRYOTE) is a collaboration between NASA and commercial companies to develop an orbital testbed that will demonstrate cryogenic fluid management technologies in space environments. "The testbed provides an in-space environment in which the fluid transfer, handling, and storage of liquid hydrogen (LH2) and/or liquid oxygen (LO2) can be demonstrated."[73][74][75]

The research is funded by the NASA Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) in the Office of the Chief Technologist. "The partners involved in the development of this system include United Launch Alliance (ULA), Sierra Lobo, Innovative Engineering Solutions (IES), Yetispace, and NASA Glenn Research Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Marshall Space Flight Center." [76]

Educational OutreachEdit

Outreach Support to the PublicEdit

NASA's Launch Services Program Educational Outreach provides awareness to students, teachers and the public about NASA's exciting spacecraft missions and how the world benefits from them. Distance learning via video conference connects students to LSP experts[77]

The office also coordinates activities and educational booths at events for NASA and the public.[78][79][80][81] The outreach is performed by both members of the LSP Educational Outreach Office and LSP experts throughout the program.

The LSP Educational Outreach Office created the Rocket Science 101 Game. Students can pick a NASA mission, select the right rocket, and build a rocket to send the spacecraft into orbit. There are three different levels for varying ages and it is available for the computer and Apple/Android devices.[82]


NASA and the Launch Services Program are partnering with several universities to launch small research satellites. These small satellites are called CubeSats. CubeSat Launch Initiative (CSLI) provides opportunities for small satellite payloads to fly on rockets planned for upcoming launches. As of February 2015, CSLI has selected 119 spacecraft since 2010.[83]

ELaNa: Educational Launch of Nanosatellites is managed by NASA's Launch Services Program[84] and is a part of CSLI. ELaNa manifests the CubeSats selected by CSLI onto upcoming rocket launches. CubeSats were first included on the launch of LSP missions in 2011. ELaNa missions are not manifested exclusively on LSP missions; they have been a part of NRO/military launches and ELaNa V will be on an International Space Station resupply launch. ELaNa mission numbers are based on the order they are manifested; due to the nature of launching, the actual launch order differs from the mission numbers.

In 2014, as a part of the White House Maker Initiative, CSLI announced it's intention to launch 50 small satellites from 50 states within five years. As of July 2014, there were 21 "rookie states" that had not previously been selected by the CSLI[85]

In October 2015, NASA's LSP, with funding partnered by Earth Science Division of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, "awarded multiple Venture Class Launch Services (VCLS) contracts to provide small satellites (SmallSats) -- also called CubeSats, microsats or nanosatellites -- access to low-Earth orbit." Three companies received $4–7 million firm fixed-price contracts. The intention of the VLCS contracts is to provide alternatives to the current rideshare-type approach for launch of small satellites.[86]

Launch Date (GMT) Fact Sheet CubeSats Deployed Mission Vehicle Launch Site
2011.03.04 ELaNa-I 3* Glory *launch failure Taurus XL Vandenberg AFB Launch Complex 576 (VAFB LC-576)
2011.10.28 ELaNa-III 6 NPOESS Preparatory Project (NPP) Delta II 7920-10 Vandenberg AFB Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
2012.09.13 ELaNa-VI 4 NROL-36 Atlas V-401 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 East (VAFB SLC-3E)
2013.11.20 ELaNa-IV, All ORS-3 payloads[87] 13 Operationally Responsive Space-3 (ORS-3) Minotaur I Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)
2013.12.06 ELaNa-II[88] 4 NROL-39 Atlas V-501 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 East (VAFB SLC-3E)
2014.02.22 ELaNa-V[89] 5 SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight (SpX-3/CRS-3) Falcon 9/ Dragon Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (CCAFS SLC-40)
2014.10.28 ELaNa-VIII 1* Orbital-3 Commercial Resupply Services (Orb-3) *launch failure Antares/Cygnus Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)
2015.01.31 ELaNa-X[90] 3 Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Delta II 7320 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
2015.05.20 ELaNa-XI 4 Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)-5/Ultra Lightweight Technology and Research Auxiliary Satellite (ULTRASat) Atlas V-501 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41)
2015.10.08 ELaNa-XII[91] 4 NROL-55 Atlas V-401 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 East (VAFB SLC-3E)
2015.11.04 ELaNa-VII[92] 2* Operationally Responsive Space-4 (ORS-4) *launch failure[93] Super Strypi Pacific Missile Range Facility
ELaNa-IX 3 unknown. Previously scheduled on Orbital-4 Commercial Resupply Services (Orb-4) and possibly for HTV-5 launch, but ELaNa not manifested for Orb-4 and HTV-5 has already flown
2016 (U/R) ELaNa-XIII FORMOSAT-5 Falcon 9 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East (VAFB SLC-4E)

Community InvolvementEdit

These two high school STEM teams are sponsored and mentored by NASA's Launch Services Program.

FIRST Robotics: Team 1592 - Bionic TigersEdit

FIRST Robotics Competition Team 1592 (the Bionic Tigers) is out of Cocoa High School (CHS) and Holy Trinity Episcopal Academy. The robotics lab is located at CHS. The team started in 2005 and has its own website[95] and Facebook[96] Twitter[97] YouTube[98] accounts. The founding mentors of the team were Analex contractors working for LSP; the team has had NASA LSP engineering mentors ever since 2006.[99]

Team 1592 is just one of many teams in the Brevard County area that are supported by Kennedy Space Center engineers. They regularly compete with one another at the Orlando Regional Competition[100] and even sometimes at the Championships.[101][102]

In 2011, Team 1592 started a coopertitionTemplate:What arrangement with Team 801 Horsepower[103] out of Merritt Island High School, Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, Jefferson Middle SchoolTemplate:Disambiguation needed, and Merritt Island Christian School. Horsepower also has NASA LSP mentors. Since the 2012 competition season, the teams have built identical robots and competed them separately. They are separate teams with their own identities, but share facilities, resources, and mentors, travel to the same competitions, and support each other performing outreach and more. They build a third identical robot for practicing with after the bag and tag date.

The 2013 competition season for the sister teams was off to a rough start, as the trailer carrying the twin robots to the Orlando Regional Competition was in an accident destroying the robots (no humans were harmed).[104] With the competition starting in less than 36 hours, the teams pulled together, used parts from their third practice robot (with permission from FIRST), and received tremendous support from other teams attending the competition to build two competition-worthy robots. Both teams made it to the elimination rounds and Horsepower even competed in the Championships that year.[105]

CubeSat: Merritt Island High School StangSatEdit

Merritt Island High School CubeSat is a high school team building a small satellite.[106][107] The team is a part of Kennedy Space Center's Creating Understanding and Broadening Education through Satellite (CUBES) pilot project.[108]

The team's StangSat was accepted by the CubeSat Launch Initiative[109] and is scheduled to launch in 2014 via ELaNa on the SpaceX-5 Commercial Resupply Services flight (SpX-5/CRS-5). The satellite is named after the school's mascot, the Mustang. StangSat will collect data on the amount of shock and vibration experienced by payloads while in orbit. This information will help future projects more accurately determine the level of protection needed for payloads. The data is of particular to interest to NASA's Launch Services Program. The satellite is being built in partnership with California Polytechnic State University.

On June 15, 2013, the team launched an engineering unit of StangSat on the Prospector-18 rocket;[110] the suborbital flight took off from the Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California's Mojave Desert.[111] The other satellites on board were Rocket University Broad Initiatives CubeSat, or RUBICS-1 (KSC); PhoneSat (ARC); and CP-9 (CalPoly). Though the parachute deployed early, resulting in a hard landing, all four satellites were able to collect usable data.[112][113] The data from this test flight is being used to improve the satellite's design.

The team will be only the second high school to launch a satellite into orbit. The first was Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology with TJ3Sat in November 2013, another ELaNa mission.[114]

FIRST Robotics Team 1592 has provided StangSat with a top plate for mounting sensors onto the CubeSat.[115]

Social MediaEdit

NASA's Launch Services Program has social media accounts on Facebook[116] and Twitter.[117] In addition to maintaining a YouTube Playlist specifically for LSP on its channel,[118] NASA's Kennedy Space Center social media accounts frequently post LSP news.[119] [120] [121] [122] [123] [124] [125] NASA has compiled a page will all its flagship social media accounts across lots of different platforms.[126] The spacecraft section of this page has accounts for many of the spacecraft launched by NASA LSP.[127]

NASA Public Affairs posts pictures and videos of NASA LSP spacecraft and rockets as they go through processing and launch.[128] [129] A launch blog is also stood up for each launch campaign and are always updated on launch day by Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs.[130]

Since NASA Socials were started in 2009, NASA LSP has participated in many for the launch of its missions: Juno, GRAIL, NPP, MSL, KSC 50th/MSL Landing, RBSP, MAVEN and more.[131] NASA Socials allow social media followers to receive VIP access to NASA facilities and speakers. The participants post about their experiences with NASA, performing outreach to their networks. NASA LSP has provided speakers for these events, along with tour guides and other support. NASA Socials were formerly known as Tweetups.[132]

NASA has create many apps, some of which feature NASA LSP and its spacecraft.[133][134] One popular app is Spacecraft 3D, which features several spacecraft launched by LSP. Developed by JPL, the app allows uses to take 3D tours of many JPL spacecraft using a printed piece of paper and their phone or tablet. Users can rotate and zoom in on the spacecraft, along with deploying movable parts of the spacecraft such as solar arrays, masts, and booms. By deploying and retracting these parts, a user can get a sense of how the spacecraft goes from the launch configuration on top of the rocket to operation configuration when it's collecting scientific data.[135][136]


LSP management, business office, and most engineers work in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center.[137] Engineers involved with telemetry work at Hangar AE, which is across the Banana River on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

LSP also maintains resident offices at:

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit


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