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Launch Services Program

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Launch Services Program

Launch Services Program
Industry Aerospace
Founded 1998
Headquarters Kennedy Space Center, FL
Website Launch Services Program

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]


  • Partners 1
    • Spacecraft Customers 1.1
    • Launch Vehicle Contractors (LVC) 1.2
    • Additional 1.3
  • Launch History 2
  • Upcoming Launches 3
  • Engineering 4
    • Launching Rockets 4.1
    • Research 4.2
      • Slosh Fluid Dynamics Experiments 4.2.1
  • Educational Outreach 5
    • Outreach Support to the Public 5.1
    • CubeSats 5.2
    • Community Involvement 5.3
      • FIRST Robotics: Team 1592 - Bionic Tigers 5.3.1
      • CubeSat: Merritt Island High School StangSat 5.3.2
  • Social Media 6
  • Locations 7
  • See also 8
  • External links 9
  • References 10


Spacecraft Customers

Launch Vehicle Contractors (LVC)

The Launch Services Program (LSP) is currently awarding new contracts under the NASA Launch Services (NLS) II Contract.[4] The following vehicles are attached to the NLS II Contract.

NASA has specific polices governing launch services.[7] LSP Flight Design provides general information regarding the launch vehicle performance available via existing NASA contracts.[8] 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.[9]

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."[10] Among work done by AFSPC is Mission Flight Control, which ensures public safety during launch.[11]

Launch History

Upcoming Launches

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
Scheduled Launch Date Mission Vehicle Launch Site
2014.12.04 Exploration Flight Test 1 (EFT-1) + Delta IV Heavy Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 37 (CCAFS SLC-37)
2014.12.16 SpaceX-5 Commercial Resupply Services flight (SpX-5/CRS-5) + Falcon 9/Dragon Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (CCAFS SLC-40)
2015.01 Deep Space Climate Observatory DSCOVR + Falcon 9 v1.1 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (CCAFS SLC-40)
2015.01.29 Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Delta II 7320 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
NET 2015.02 SpaceX-6 Commercial Resupply Services flight (SpX-6/CRS-6) + Falcon 9/Dragon Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (CCAFS SLC-40)
2015.03.12 Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission (MMS) Atlas V-421 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41)
2015.03.31 Jason-3 (NOAA mission) Falcon 9 v1.0 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East (VAFB SLC-4E)
2015.04.01 (U/R) Orbital-4 Commercial Resupply Services (Orb-4) + Antares/Cygnus Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)
2016.03.04 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)
2016.03 (mid-month) (U/R) Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R (GOES-R) Atlas V-541 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41)
2016.09.03 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)
2016.10 Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) Pegasus XL Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS)
2016.11.15 Joint Polar Satellite System-1 (JPSS-1) Delta II 7920 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
Beyond 2016
2017.06 (mid-month) (U/R) Ionospheric Connection Explorer (ICON) Pegasus XL[12] Reagan Test Site
2017.03.15 Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2) Delta II 7420 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
2017.05 Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-S (GOES-S) Atlas V-541 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41)
2017.07 Solar Orbiter Atlas V-411 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 41 (CCAFS SLC-41)
2017.08 Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow On (GRACE-FO) + Dnepr Baikonur Cosmodrome
2017.08 Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Vehicle Unassigned (medium)
2018.07 Solar Probe Plus Vehicle Unassigned (intermediate/heavy)
2018.10 James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) +[13] Ariane 5 ECA Guiana Space Centre ELA-3
2020.07 Mars 2020 Vehicle Unassigned (intermediate/heavy)
2020.11 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


Launching Rockets

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.[14][15]
  • Telemetry engineers get tracking stations to cover all the mandatory portions of flight.[14][16] 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 [17]


Members of the Launch Services Program perform research relating to launching unmanned NASA spacecraft.[18] Research topics include (partial list):

  • Collision Avoidance (COLA)[19]
  • Upper-level Winds on Day-of-Launch[20][21][22]
  • Slosh Fluid Dynamics [23]

Slosh Fluid Dynamics Experiments


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.[24][25][26][27] The Cygnus arrived at the ISS on 2014.01.12 and will spend five weeks unloading the cargo.[28]

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[29][30][31] 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).[32] [33][34] [35] [36]

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."[37] 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[38])

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.[39]


  • Space Station Live: Fluid Motion Study Using Mini-Satellites - Reel NASA Interview with LSP's Dr. Paul Schallhorn to explain the experiment
  • Space to Ground - 1/17/14 - Reel NASA update on ISS includes launch of SPHERES-Slosh

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.[40] 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 [41] 17
2008.10.27 14 P236, Tests 7 & 8: Fluid Slosh, Rotate 2: Sat Only & Batt Proof Mass [42] 18
2009.07.11 16 P251, Test 2 Fluid Slosh - X Nutation & Test 3 Fluid Slosh - Rotation Rate High [43] 20
2009.08.15 18 P264, Tests A/2, B/3 Fluid Slosh - Z Motion Fluid Slosh (full tank/partially used tank) [44] 20
2009.12.05 20 P20A, Fluid Slosh Test 3/4: Z Reverse T1/T2, Test 5/6: Fluid Slosh Spin Z Forward/Reverse [45] 21
2010.10.07 24 P24A, Tests 4/5: Fluid Slosh: Lateral/Circular Motion [46] 25
2010.10.28 25 P311, Tests 2/3/5: Fluid Slosh: Z Translation/X Translation/X Rotation [47] 25
2014.01.22 54 Slosh Checkout (1st SPHERES-Slosh Test Session) 38 Expedition 38 Image Gallery[48][49][50]
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

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."[51][52][53]

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." [54]

Educational Outreach

Outreach Support to the Public

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[55]

The office also coordinates activities and educational booths at events for NASA and the public.[56][57][58][59] 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.[60]


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 2013, CSLI has selected 89 spacecraft since 2010.[61]

ELaNa: Educational Launch of Nanosatellites is managed by NASA's Launch Services Program[62] 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.

Launch Date 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 13 Operationally Responsive Space-3 (ORS-3) Minotaur I Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)
2013.12.06 ELaNa II 4 NROL-39 Atlas V-501 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 3 East (VAFB SLC-3E)
2014.02.22 ELaNa V 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 ELaNa VII 2 Operationally Responsive Space-4 (ORS-4) Super Strypi Pacific Missile Range Facility
2015.01.29 ELaNa X 3 Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Delta II 7320 Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 2 West (VAFB SLC-2W)
2015.04.01 (U/R) ELaNa IX 3 Orbital-4 Commercial Resupply Services (Orb-4) Antares/Cygnus Wallops Flight Facility (WFF)

Community Involvement

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

FIRST Robotics: Team 1592 - Bionic Tigers

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[63] and Facebook[64] Twitter[65] YouTube[66] accounts. The founding mentors of the team were Analex contractors working for LSP; the team has had NASA LSP engineering mentors ever since 2006.[67]

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[68] and even sometimes at the Championships.[69][70]

In 2011, Team 1592 started a coopertition arrangement with Team 801 Horsepower[71] out of Merritt Island High School, Edgewood Junior/Senior High School, Jefferson Middle School, 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).[72] 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.[73]

CubeSat: Merritt Island High School StangSat

Merritt Island High School CubeSat is a high school team building a small satellite.[74][75] The team is a part of Kennedy Space Center's Creating Understanding and Broadening Education through Satellite (CUBES) pilot project.[76]

The team's StangSat was accepted by the CubeSat Launch Initiative[77] 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;[78] the suborbital flight took off from the Friends of Amateur Rocketry site in California's Mojave Desert.[79] 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.[80][81] 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.[82]

FIRST Robotics Team 1592 has provided StangSat with a top plate for mounting sensors onto the CubeSat.[83]

Social Media

NASA's Launch Services Program has social media accounts on Facebook[84] and Twitter.[85] In addition to maintaining a YouTube Playlist specifically for LSP on its channel,[86] NASA's Kennedy Space Center social media accounts frequently post LSP news.[87] [88] [89] [90] [91] [92] [93] NASA has compiled a page will all its flagship social media accounts across lots of different platforms.[94] The spacecraft section of this page has accounts for many of the spacecraft launched by NASA LSP.[95]

NASA Public Affairs posts pictures and videos of NASA LSP spacecraft and rockets as they go through processing and launch.[96] [97] A launch blog is also stood up for each launch campaign and are always updated on launch day by Kennedy Space Center Public Affairs.[98]

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.[99] 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.[100]

NASA has create many apps, some of which feature NASA LSP and its spacecraft.[101][102] 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.[103][104]


LSP management, business office, and most engineers work in the Operations and Checkout Building at Kennedy Space Center. 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 also

External links

  • Kennedy Resource Encyclopedia (includes some of the Technical Capabilities and Services and Facilities associated with LSP)
  • United Launch Alliance site Launch Vehicle Provider
  • Space X site Launch Vehicle Provider
  • Orbital site Launch Vehicle Provider
  • Lockheed Martin: Space Systems Launch Vehicle Provider
  • Air Force Space Command
  • Space Flight Now Provides Space News including Launch Coverage


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  59. ^ Herridge, Linda "NASA's Launch Services Program Helps Promote Black History Month" 20 February 2011
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  61. ^ NASA CubeSat Selections
  62. ^ NASA Feature Article on ELaNa: Educational Launch of Nanosatellites
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  83. ^ Bionic Tigers & MIHS CubeSat Meeting Facebook Album
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  85. ^ NASA's Launch Services Program Twitter
  86. ^ Launch Services Program YouTube Playlist
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  88. ^ NASA's Kennedy Space Center Twitter
  89. ^ NASA's Kennedy Space Center YouTube
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  93. ^ NASA's Kennedy Space Center SlideShare
  94. ^ NASA Flagship Social Media Accounts
  95. ^ Spacecraft Section of NASA Flagship Social Media Accounts
  96. ^ KSC Video and Photo Search search for "Launch Services Program" or by specific mission
  97. ^ NASA Videos
  98. ^ Kennedy Space Center Launch Blogs
  99. ^ NASA Socials NASA
  100. ^ NASA Social Wiki
  101. ^ NASA Apps
  102. ^ JPL Mobile Apps
  103. ^ JPL's Spacecraft 3D on Apple Devices
  104. ^ JPL's Spacecraft 3D on Android Devices
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