NASA Flight Opportunities Tech Flights Solicitation Now Open

NASA Program Announcement

NASA’s latest Tech Flights solicitation seeking promising space technology payloads for testing on commercial suborbital vehicles is now open. 

Mandatory abstracts due: March 20, 2020
Proposals due: April 24, 2020 

View the full Tech Flights solicitation on NSPIRES. This is also where abstracts and all other proposal materials must be submitted. 

Q&A Sessions

Have questions about the proposal process? We will be holding two information sessions to address questions and provide information about what’s new in the 2020 solicitation:

March 11 at 12 p.m. PDT
March 12 at 8 a.m. PDT

Visit NSPIRES for details about how to join one of these two sessions, which will be live streamed via WebEx. Slides from the presentation will be available online after the sessions.

We encourage all proposers, whether you are a first-time proposer or a veteran of the program, to attend one of these sessions.

Editor’s Note: This solicitation includes the opportunity for researchers to fly aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicles. NASA has made it very clear they will be flying at their own risk (emphasis mine).

Eligibility for Flight:

Proposing organization employees and/or subawardee/subcontractor employees may fly onboard flights conducted under awards from this solicitation. Additionally, flight provider crew members (employees of the flight provider company) may participate on behalf of the proposer in flight experiments. NASA holds no safety responsibility for suborbital flights conducted under this solicitation. All flights will be regulated by the FAA. An awardee’s institution and the flight service provider are responsible for meeting all applicable local, state, and federal regulations. If human or other living test subjects are involved in the research, the proposer’s institutional review board and the flight providers are responsible for meeting all applicable research requirements. NASA employees (including those detailed to NASA from other Agencies) and NASA Contractor employees are not eligible to be space flight participants under this solicitation.

The space flight participant employer must accept safety responsibility for the space flight participant funded through this solicitation. In order to understand the safety risks, the space flight participant, an Authorized Organizational Representative (AOR) from the proposing organization, and the space flight participant employer must be informed of launch and re-entry risks by the flight provider (also known as the “operator”, per 14 CFR 460.45), either before submitting a proposal or before award of a selected proposal.

Under law, the FAA is prohibited from writing any safety regulations to protect crew members or passengers on these suborbital vehicles. There needs to be a serious accident or close call before the agency can start writing regulations.

However, NASA has some safety requirements for these vehicles before it will fund a flight with a research (space flight participant) aboard.

For non-expendable payloads or space flight participant involvement – \

A. No more than one launch accident or reentry accident (combined) in the last 14 flights of a vehicle type as identified in FAA licenses, permits or certifications held by the vehicle operator. 14 nominal flights corresponds with a demonstrated reliability of 95% *

*Launch accident, reentry accident, and nominal are defined in 14 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 401.5 and referenced by 14 CFR 431. Vehicle type has been clarified in FAA guidance to mean vehicles similar in design and structure as licensed or permitted by the FAA. For instance, the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo capsules are different vehicle types. The Space Transportation System (“Space Shuttle”) vehicles are considered the same vehicle type.