Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition IV Moving Forward

Published: August 16, 2018


At $4 Billion, RAPID IV is the largest valued NASA procurement in FY2019

Earlier this year, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) started the process of recompeting its Rapid Spacecraft Acquisition contracts.  A Request for Information (RFI) was released on March 5, 2018 to collect market research from interested vendors.  RAPID IV will result in the award of multiple fixed-price IDIQ contracts for spacecraft bus core systems to meet NASA’s science and technology needs.

Contracts are expected to be awarded based the ability of vendors to meet certain criteria, including: 

  • Design and development of a core spacecraft
  • Testing
  • Payload integration and test
  • Launch operations support
  • On-orbit checkout

Work is primarily performed at the contractor’s facility, although additional work may be performed at the government’s launch site for the specific mission involved. 

Overview of the RAPID Program:

The RAPID Program is managed by NASA’s Rapid Spacecraft Development Office (RSDO).  RSDO’s goal is to encourage individual missions to define the Payload and Instruments to the maximum extent possible before the selection of a spacecraft.  By using existing spacecraft, the RAPID Program allows for the mitigation of technical risk and a focus on modifications that are unique to specific missions.  Developed spacecraft are placed in the RSDO Catalog.

The RSDO acquisition process takes six to eight months for spacecraft procurement among the incumbent RAPID contractors.  This stands in stark contrast to two years or longer for the acquisition of a spacecraft through the traditional procurement process.

Under the incumbent RAPID III contracts, RSDO awarded spacecraft delivery orders for the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2), Joint Polar Satellite System 1 (JPSS-1), and Joint Polar Satellite System 2 (JPSS-2) missions.

RAPID Procurement History:

NASA issued the RAPID III solicitation in the fall of 2009.  They awarded eight IDIQ contracts in March 2010.  The contractors were Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp., General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems, Lockheed Martin Corporation, Orbital Sciences Corp., Surrey Satellite Technology US LLC, Northrop Grumman Space & Mission Systems Corp., Thales Alenia Space Italia in Rome, and Thales Alenia Space in France.

NASA conducted three On-Ramp opportunities for RAPID III.  The first was in October 2011.  It resulted in no new contracts, but resulted in a modification to Lockheed’s contract for the development of an additional spacecraft design.  The second was announced in March 2012, resulting in a modification to Ball Aerospace’s contract for an additional spacecraft design.  The third On-Ramp resulted in four new contracts awarded on May 18, 2016.  Boeing, QinetiQ Space of Belgium, Space Systems Loral, and Thales Alenia Space France were added to the list of RAPID III contract holders.

All of the RAPID III contracts are scheduled to expire on March 31, 2020.

Contract Spending to Date:

Only the following RAPID III contracts received funding obligations thus far:


The combined ceiling value for all RAPID III contracts was $4 billion.  To date, just over $1 billion in funding has been obligated.  This is roughly a quarter of the overall ceiling value.

RAPID IV Acquisition Strategy:

The Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) is reviewing responses to the RFI.  The Contracting Office tentatively anticipates the procurement process will move forward this fall.  An Industry Day is not anticipated, although a Draft Solicitation is scheduled to be released.  A specific Draft Solicitation release time frame is unavailable, although the Final Solicitation is not expected to be released until Q2 FY2019 at the earliest.

NASA expects a Full and Open/Unrestricted competition with multiple IDIQ contract awards.  The anticipated period of performance is 10 years consisting of one 5-year base period and one 5-year option.

Like its predecessor, the ceiling value of RAPID IV is expected to be around $4 billion. 

Tips for Interested Vendors:

  • NASA currently anticipates RAPID IV will include the Mission Assurance Requirements (MAR) at the master contract level.  The anticipated minimum quality management may be SAE AS9100/ISO 9001.
  • Because there are a number of possible NASA missions which could require heritage spacecraft, NASA is interested in seeing heritage spacecraft busses of varying sizes, lifetimes, orbit use, and mission suitability.
  • Review the current RSDO Spacecraft Catalog to see what incumbents are presently offering and determine what innovations can be suggested to improve upon what is available.
  • Review the previous Solicitation documents and other documents released for RAPID III for specific information regarding requirements and evaluation criteria.
  • NASA expects RAPID IV to have On-Ramp opportunities in the coming years.  Interested vendors who are not successful with the forthcoming solicitation should look to take advantage.  The Contracting Office indicated that the number of On-Ramp opportunities will depend on eventual mission needs.  Because of this, a specific number of opportunities is unknown.
  • NASA does not have a set number of awards in mind for RAPID IV.  The Contracting Office indicated that all interested vendors who submit qualified Proposals which meet the required criteria will be awarded a contract.

Deltek is tracking this opportunity under GovWin IQ Opportunity Report # 97938 RAPID SPACECRAFT ACQUISITION IV (RAPID IV)