NASA has signed an agreement with the Space Florida Small Satellite Research Centre of Cape Canaveral, Florida, to manage the Nano-Satellite Launch Challenge to launch satellites with a mass of at least 1kg into Earth’s orbit twice within a week.

The main objective of the competition is to encourage innovations in propulsion and other technologies, as well as operations and management relevant to a safe, low-cost, small payload delivery system.

The competition will be beneficial to broader applications in future launch systems, and will enhance commercial capability for dedicated launches of small satellites.

The challenge carries prize money of $2m from NASA, while operating costs for the launch will be paid through commercial or private sponsorships.

The agreement allows Space Florida to use the Kennedy Space Centre, and the first competition attempt is expected to take place mid-2012.