NASA Announces $15 Million in Funding for Commercial Suborbital Research

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced today that the agency’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) will receive $15 million in its budget for 2011. This is an increase from the $2.5 million in the 2010 budget.

Garver said that over time, much of what NASA will spend on this will be spent on universities and students. The work that students are doing on microgravity aircraft flights have been inspiring and “life changing” for many students, she added.

The deputy administrator made the announcement during the Next Generation Researcher’s Conference, which began today in Boulder, Colo. The funding is reported to be at an annual rate of $15 million over the next five years, for a total of $75 million.

Garver also said that NASA Dryden Research Center in California will oversee the assessment and safety evaluation of new suborbital research vehicles. The facility in the Mojave Desert has long handled experimental aircraft development, including the X-15 rocket plane.

A number of entrepreneurial companies are vying for a piece of the suborbital research market, including Virgin Galactic, XCOR, Blue Origin, Armadillo Aerospace, and Masten Space Systems. The flights will provide about 3 to 5 minutes of microgravity time.

For a number of the companies, the research flights will supplement income they will receive from flying tourists into space.