Former NASA Astronaut Joins Suborbital Applications Researchers Group


Former NASA astronaut Samuel T. Durrance, a PhD astronomer and veteran of two Space Shuttle missions, has been selected as the latest addition to the Commercial Spaceflight Federation’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group (SARG).

“We are very happy to have Sam aboard SARG to contribute his expertise as a two-time NASA payload specialist on the Space Shuttle,” said Dr. S. Alan Stern, Chairman of SARG and a space scientist who previously served as head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. “Sam also broadens our educator and astronomy experience base, and we are looking forward to his many contributions to the growth of the suborbital research and education markets.”

Including Dr. Durrance, SARG now consists of eleven researchers and educators, in disciplines ranging from microgravity physics to life sciences, who are aiming to increase awareness of commercial suborbital spacecraft in the science and R&D communities, work with policymakers to ensure that payloads can have easy access to these vehicles, and further develop ideas for the uses of vehicles under development by Armadillo Aerospace, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, and XCOR Aerospace.

Dr. Durrance stated, “I am very excited to be joining the other scientists in SARG. I think the astronomy community will be astonished by the capabilities of this new generation of commercial suborbital vehicles. And having journeyed into space alongside a telescope I helped develop on the ground, I am excited about the human-in-the-loop capabilities of these new vehicles.”

After receiving his PhD degree in astro-geophysics from the University of Colorado in 1980, Sam Durrance served as a Principal Research Scientist at Johns Hopkins University and was a co-investigator for the Hopkins Ultraviolet Telescope, one of the instruments for the Astro Observatory. As a NASA payload specialist, Sam Durrance traveled into space aboard the STS-35/Astro-1 and STS-67/Astro-2 missions. Complementing his astronomy training and astronaut flight experience, Dr. Durrance also has experience with sounding rockets and was a former director of the Florida Space Grant Consortium. He currently works as a professor of physics and space sciences at Florida Tech.

In addition to Dr. Durrance and Dr. Stern, the other members of SARG are Dr. Steven Collicott (Purdue University), Dr. Joshua Colwell (University of Central Florida), Dr. Daniel Durda (Southwest Research Institute), Dr. David Grinspoon (Denver Museum of Natural Sciences), Dr. Richard Miles (Princeton University), Dr. John Pojman (Louisiana State University), Dr. Mark Shelhamer (Johns Hopkins University), Dr. Mike Summers (George Mason University), and Dr. Erika Wagner (Massachusetts Institute of Technology).