US space agency the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has ordered three new H135 helicopters to support its current space programs.
The aircraft will be used for security during rocket launches, emergency medical services and qualified personnel transport.
The order marks the first-ever partnership between NASA and Airbus Helicopters.
Operating from Kennedy Space Center, Florida, two of the helicopters are scheduled for delivery late mid-2020, with a third planned for early 2021.
Dave Ramsey, NASA’s chief of flight operations at the Kennedy Space Center, said the agency chose the H135 because it met NASA’s mission requirements.
This included personnel movements, airborne law enforcement roles, aerial firefighting, weapons training and overwater operations.
“The H135 provides a modernised airframe that performs well in the Florida environment and will serve to protect NASA assets and personnel for years to come,” he said.
NASA will acquire the aircraft through Davenport Aviation, a business that specialises in the supply of aerospace equipment to federal, state and local government agencies.
The H135 is a light, twin-engine helicopter regarded for its endurance, reliability and versatility.
It includes the Helionix avionics suite and has an advanced cockpit to improve pilots’ situational awareness.
The H135 operates in more than 60 countries and has flown more than 5 million flight hours.