NASA Selects New Suborbital Payloads
June 10, 2013

NASA Selects 21 New Suborbital Payloads, Surpassing 100 Total Experiment Milestone

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

NASA´s Space Technology Mission Directorate's Flight Opportunities Program has selected 21 new space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, balloons, and a commercial parabolic aircraft.

The newest batch of projects, which were announced by the American space agency on Friday, represents the sixth cycle of their continuing call for payloads through an announcement of opportunity. To date, the Flight Opportunities Program has facilitated over 100 technologies with test flights, according to NASA officials.

“This new group of payloads, ranging from systems that support cubesats to new sensors technology for planetary exploration, represent the sorts of cutting-edge technologies that are naturally suited for testing during returnable flights to near-space,” said Michael Gazarik, Associate Administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate. “NASA's Flight Opportunities Program continues to mature this key technology development pipeline link, thanks to America's commercial suborbital reusable vehicles providers.”

According to NASA, 14 of the newly-selected payloads will ride on parabolic aircraft flights, which will provide brief periods of weightlessness. Two of them will fly on suborbital reusable launch vehicle test flights, three will ride on high-altitude balloons that fly above 65,000 feet.

Furthermore, one payload will fly on both a parabolic flight and a suborbital launch vehicle, and another will fly on both a suborbital launch vehicle and a high-altitude balloon platform, the space agency said. The various payload flights are scheduled to take place from now through the year 2015.

“Flight opportunities currently include the Zero-G Corporation parabolic airplane under contract with the Reduced Gravity Office at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston; Near Space Corp. high-altitude balloons; and reusable launch vehicles from Armadillo Aerospace, Masten Space Systems, UP Aerospace and Virgin Galactic,” NASA said. “Additional commercial suborbital flight vendors under contract to NASA, including XCOR and Whittinghill, also will provide flight services.”

Payload projects selected for upcoming flights originate from researchers at a number of institutions, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Massachusetts General Hospital, the Air Force Research Laboratory, the University of Texas, Oxford University, Saber Astronautics Australia, Northwestern University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Arizona, California Polytechnic State University, Makel Engineering Inc., the University of Colorado, and NASA's Langley Research Center.

“NASA manages the Flight Opportunities manifest, matching payloads with flights, and will pay for payload integration and the flight costs for the selected payloads. No funds are provided for the development of the payloads,” they explained, adding that the Space Technology Mission Directorate “is dedicated to innovating, developing, testing and flying hardware for use in the agency's future missions.”