NASA Seeks Suborbital Space Companies to Flight Test Space Technologies

Current commercial suborbital spaces launch providers that are under contract for the Flight Opportunities Program. (Credit: NASA Collage / Monroe Conner)
Current commercial suborbital spaces launch providers that are under contract for the Flight Opportunities Program. (Credit: NASA Collage / Monroe Conner)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has been working with commercial space companies for several years to deliver astronauts and supplies to the International Space Station. The agency has also sought commercial suborbital space companies to verify the performance of technologies and systems in suborbital space with the goal of reducing the cost and risk of future orbital space missions.

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Flight Opportunities Program has re-opened its solicitation seeking to on-ramp suborbital reusable launch vehicle services that will fly NASA internally sourced or NASA-directed research and development technology payloads.  The suborbital flights will provide these payloads exposure to space, reduced gravity or high-altitude environments required to test technology performance and advance technology readiness levels.

NASA awarded the first on-ramp solicitation to Near Space Corporation, Tillamook, Oregon, in September 2015, that joined original vendors Masten Space Systems, Mojave, California; UP Aerospace, Littleton, Colorado; Virgin Galactic, New York City; and World View, Tucson, Arizona, in providing flight services using suborbital launchers and balloons.

The on-ramping solicitation allows for additional suborbital space companies with a proven flight record to qualify as new flight providers for the program. Aircraft microgravity flight services are outside the scope of this solicitation.

NASA Selects New Technologies for Parabolic Flights and Suborbital Launches

NASA LOGOEDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected eight space technology payloads for reduced gravity flights on board specialized aircraft and commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs). These flights provide a valuable platform to mature cutting-edge technologies, validating feasibility and reducing technical risks and costs before infusion into future space missions.

Five of the newly selected proposals requested parabolic flights, which involve a flight maneuver that uses a dramatic half-minute drop of the aircraft though the sky to simulate weightlessness. Two proposed projects will fly on sRLVs for testing during longer periods of weightlessness. An additional payload will fly on both platforms.

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ISPCS Day One Review & a Mojave Engine Test

Credit: Robin Snelson
Credit: Robin Snelson

Greetings from Mojave.  I had hoped to be greeting you from Las Cruces from the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS — pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Is-pic-us). But, my plans to leave one desert town to travel across vast stretches of desert to a larger desert town didn’t work out this year. (I don’t know why; it sounded like so much fun.)

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Terminal Velocity Aerospace Tests Recoverable Experiments Capsule

High-altitude balloon lifts space reentry capsule for flight test. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)
High-altitude balloon lifts space reentry capsule for flight test. (Credit: Near Space Corporation)

TILLAMOOK, Ore. (NASA PR) — A prototype capsule that one day will return science experiments to Earth was tested by releasing it from a high-altitude balloon in Tillamook, Oregon. Technology like this capsule could one day return biological samples and other small payloads from space in a relatively short time.

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Video About Innovation at Mojave, NASA Armstrong & Edwards AFB

Video Caption: In this video, innovative ideas on the future of space travel and aerospace dynamics are the brainchild of Mojave Spaceport’s, Stu Witt; NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center’s David McBride and Rocket Propulsion Lab’s Mike Huggins. The importance of risk as a crucial element in progressing forward is emphasized by the foremost risk-takers in space; rocket science; aerospace and education.The role of STEM education in growing our engineers is championed by AV College Math and Science Dean, Les Uhazy, as well as the space pioneers interviewed for this project.

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Towed Twin-Fuselage Glider Launch System First Test Flight Successful

One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight. (Credit: Tom Tschida/NASA Armstrong)
One of NASA Armstrong’s DROID small unmanned research aircraft tows the twin-fuselage towed glider into the blue sky on its first test flight. (Credit: Tom Tschida/NASA Armstrong)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has successfully flight-tested a prototype twin-fuselage towed glider that could lead to rockets being launched from pilotless aircraft at high altitudes – a technology application that could significantly reduce the cost and improve the efficiency of sending small satellites into space. The first flights of the one-third-scale twin fuselage towed glider took place Oct. 21 from NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California.

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Shuttle Carrier Aircraft Now on Display in Palmdale

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Shuttle Carrier N911NA is now on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark at 2001 East Avenue P in Palmdale, Calif. The airpark is open Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding major holidays. Admission is free.

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)

NASA acquired the former Japan Airlines 747-100ASR in 1988 after the space shuttle Challenger accident. It entered service two years later. The aircraft was used in 1991 to transport the space shuttle Endeavour from its manufacturing plant in Palmdale to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)
Shuttle Carrier Aircraft (Credit: Douglas Messier)

NASA has loaded the aircraft to the Joe Davies airpark. It will remain a source of spare parts for the space agency’s SOFIA flying observatory, which is based at the adjacent Armstrong Aircraft Operations Facility.

The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with a B-52 bomber. (Credit: Douglas Messier)
The Shuttle Carrier Aircraft with a B-52 bomber. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

NASA Seeks Partnerships on Reusable Suborbital Vehicles, Smallsat Launchers

NASA LOGOWASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking potential partnerships with U.S. space companies that are maturing suborbital reusable launch vehicles as well as companies pursuing development of small spacecraft orbital launch systems.

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, managed by NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards, California, recently issued a request for information for the commercial space industry to build partnerships that would advance the growth of space technologies and services with these companies.

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Impact of Zero G’s Operational Problems on NASA

Made in Space employees on a Zero G research flight.
Made in Space employees on a Zero G research flight.

As you know, Zero Gravity Corporation provides parabolic flight services to NASA using a modified Boeing 727 aircraft. I asked the folks over at the space agency’s Flight Opportunities Program (FOP), which funds scientific and technical research projects on various vehicles, about what impact the company’s legal and operational problems have had or are having on NASA operations.

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Shuttle Carrier 747 to be Displayed in Palmdale

Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)
Space shuttle Atlantis being mated to shuttle carrier aircraft at NASA Dryden. (Credit: NASA)

One of the modified 747 aircraft used to transport space shuttles will be going on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark in Palmdale, Calif., in about a month.

NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center Director David McBride revealed the plan during a press event on Tuesday to mark the dismantling of the space shuttle mate-demate device, which was used to mount the orbiters on their carrier aircraft after they landed at Edwards Air Force Base.

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NASA Formally Dedicates Armstrong Flight Research Center

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, CALIF. (NASA PR) — Two aerospace legends and their families were honored at a formal dedication ceremony May 13, marking the rededication of NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, formerly the Dryden Flight Research Center, at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

Legislation passed Congress in January to rename the center after the late Neil A. Armstrong, a former research test pilot at the center and the first man to step on the moon during the historic Apollo 11 mission in 1969. Armstrong flew research aircraft, including the rocket-powered X-15s, during his seven-year tenure at the center from 1955 through 1962.

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Video of F-18 Flyover During NASA Armstrong Dedication Ceremony

An F-18 flies over the crowd during the formal dedication ceremony for the NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center. Formerly named after the late NASA Deputy Administrator Hugh Dryden, the center was renamed earlier this year after Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong, who was the first man to walk on the moon.

NASA Selects New Suborbital Technology Payloads, Total Tops 130

NASA LOGOEDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected 13 space technology payloads for flights on commercial reusable launch vehicles, and a commercial parabolic aircraft. These flights provide cutting-edge technologies with a valuable platform to conduct tests, before they enter use in the harsh environment of space.

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NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program Looks to Busy 2014

An exterior camera on the forward portion of UP Aerospace' SL-8 sounding rocket captures this spectacular view of the Earth's horizon during its flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico for NASA's Flight Opportunities Program last November. (Credit: UP Aerospace)
An exterior camera on the forward portion of UP Aerospace’ SL-8 sounding rocket captures this spectacular view of the Earth’s horizon during its flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico for NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program last November. (Credit: UP Aerospace)
EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program of the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate accomplished its busiest year in 2013 since its inception in late 2010, and 2014 promises to be even busier.

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Get Used to Saying NASA Armstrong

Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, left, and Neil A. Armstrong, right. (Credit; NASA)
Dr. Hugh L. Dryden, left, and Neil A. Armstrong, right. (Credit; NASA)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — President Barack Obama has signed HR 667, the congressional resolution that redesignates NASA’s Hugh L. Dryden Flight Research Center as the Neil A. Armstrong Flight Research Center, into law. The resolution also names Dryden’s Western Aeronautical Test Range as the Hugh L. Dryden Aeronautical Test Range. Both Hugh Dryden and Neil Armstrong are aerospace pioneers whose contributions are historic to NASA and the nation as a whole. NASA is developing a timeline to implement the name change.

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