Rapid IV Spacecraft Ready for Lift Off?  Counting down…The Switch to-Space Travel as a Service (STaaS)

  |  June 6, 2019

Peter Adam –  

The Trump Administration is re-trajectorizing America’s space agency.

Regime Change

To meet its new ambitious objectives, NASA is reconfiguring the way it does procurement. Contractors, including RAPID IV bidders — get ready for Space Travel as a Service (STaaS).

Not your Father’s (or Grandma’s) Space Race

NASA’s new way of doing business was presented in detail by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine at a May 23, event held at Florida Institute of Technology (FIT).

Bridenstine made it clear he was totally on-board with the Administration’s plans to have America recapture its pre-eminence as a space faring nation.  ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QxbJjVAMDVM).

ARTEMIS – FOLLOW ON TO APOLLO – The new lunar mission, slated for 2024, is named, appropriately, ARTEMIS, after the Greek goddess of the moon — and Apollo’s twin sister. ARTEMIS will be the first manned mission to the moon in nearly five decades.

His presentation focused on the ARTEMIS Program, which is intended to return (wo)man to the moon.      However, there were pointed comments pertinent to RAPID IV, such as the following:

I call on NASA to adopt new policies and embrace a new mindset….  If our current contractors can’t meet this objective, then we’ll find ones that will. (a likely a reference to lower-cost rockets built by SpaceX and Blue Origin.)

RAPID IV Rundown

The Rapid IV Spacecraft Acquisition Contract, which has an estimated value of $6B ($4B initially, $2B Option), is still in its pre-RFP stage. After a long period with industry days and no substantive announcements, it is believed that NASA Goddard is near the end of the struggle to come to grips with the new paradigm.  And the RFP is expected to finally hit the street in June.

This is a full and open IDIQ 5-year deal with a 1 x 5-year option.  FFP bids required.

The number of RAPID IV awardees is unknown.

In any case, the RAPID IV RFP is unlikely to be just a copy-and-paste from RAPID III.

Instead it may resemble the NextSTEP public-private partnership model that seeks commercial development of deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human space flight missions in the Proving Ground around and beyond cislunar space—the near-Earth space that extends just beyond the moon. A key component of the NextSTEP partnership model is that it provides an opportunity for NASA and industry to partner to develop capabilities that meet NASA space exploration objectives while also supporting industry commercialization plans.

NASA issued the original NextSTEP Broad Agency Announcement (BAA) to U.S. industry in late 2014 and issued the second NextSTEP BAA in April 2016.


The language of the BAA is illustrative.

NASA is increasingly relying on public-private partnerships that simultaneously stimulate U.S. commercial space industry while delivering NASA mission capabilities at lower costs

  • Demonstrating advanced SEP onboard a commercially-derived spacecraft bus aligns with U.S. industry needs and provides NASA a capability suitable for use as the first Gateway element
  • Offerors will propose a partnering and commercial approach based on their specific targeted follow-on commercial applications that advance U.S. industries competitiveness
  • The profit potential of these future products establishes the basis for shared risk in the development and demonstration of PPE
  • Offerors’ proposals will address their commitment to the public/private partnership by identifying:

    WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE – A sophisticated and advanced moon-based colony was already well established in Stanley Kubrick’s film, 2001, a Space Odyssey.

– Commitment of Offeror’s corporate resources

– The profit potential of the proposed future PPE-derived products

– How proposed commercial objectives are achieved by the demonstration

– Capabilities identified by the Offeror, as required by their specific objectives, are at the Offerors expense and considered a corporate contribution



So the paramount questions are:

  • How will NASA Goddard adapt the RAPID program RFP to the new paradigm?
  • How will the contractors retool their strategy / response to win a contract while making a profit?

Anyone wanting to discuss this is invited to contact Russell Smith at

703 689-9600 (b), 703 819-5290 (c),  or rsmith@ociwins.com