How do we get There from Here? With Suborbital Flight Testing

Image shows Trona Pinnacles near California’s NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center during Jan. 31 Super Blue Blood Moon. Trona Pinnacles is an unusual geological feature of the state’s Desert National Conservation. (Credits: NASA / Lauren Hughes)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Standing here on Earth, on a clear night we can look to the sky and see the destination for NASA’s Artemis program: the Moon. Seemingly close, but still quite far. Yet the space between us and that source of fascination is ripe with possibilities for helping mature the technologies we will need to get there, stay there, and venture beyond to Mars.

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NASA to Release RFI for Astronauts to Fly on New Shepard, SpaceShipTwo

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated this idea during the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference back in March. They’re clearly moving forward with it.

Bridenstine has mentioned that NASA needed some sort of plan to certify the vehicles. It will be interesting to see what the space agency will require of Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo before conducting any astronaut training on the suborbital systems.

The vehicles can provide several minutes of continuous weightless as well as experience in rocket-powered acceleration and re-entry.

Astronauts train aboard aircraft flying parabolic arcs that provide about 25 seconds of microgravity at a time. NASA contracts for training with Zero Gravity Corporation, which uses a modified Boeing 727.

NASA to Fund Researchers to Fly on Suborbital Vehicles, Maybe Astronauts

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

After spending a few years in hibernation, the Next-generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) is being held in Colorado this week. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but I’ve been following all the action on Twitter.

In a keynote address on Monday, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine floated the idea of letting the space agency’s astronauts fly aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital vehicles. He also discussed certifying the systems to comply with a subset of NASA’s human ratings requirements.

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A Case for Durational Research: Space Plants Co-Investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul

Robert Ferl_and Anna-Lisa Paul (Credit: NASA)

NASA Flight Opportunities Program Q&A

University of Florida-Gainesville co-investigators Robert Ferl and Anna-Lisa Paul are no strangers to suborbital research. They’ve been conducting plant research in microgravity since the late 1990s—first on the Space Shuttle and then on the International Space Station (ISS) and parabolic flights, many of which have been facilitated by Flight Opportunities.

More recently, the pair have begun flying their “space plants” (Arabidopsis thaliana) on rockets, including Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo and Blue Origin’s New Shepard. We spoke with Ferl and Paul about how they have approached their long-duration research to lead to successful, iterative investigations on multiple flights. 

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ZERO-G Celebrates 15 Years

Participants experience microgravity aboard a Zero-G Corporation parabolic flight. (PRNewsFoto/Zero Gravity Corporation, Al Powers)

ARLINGTON, Va. (ZERO-G PR) – 2019 marks a historic year for the country’s first weightless flight company,Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G), as they celebrate 15 years of offering extraordinary experiences. As the company looks forward toward a path of exploration, they celebrate a history that is marked with incredible milestones and unforgettable airborne memories.

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Competition for Teachers to Host Weightless Science Class with Zero-G Corporation

G-FORCE ONE (Credit: Zero-G Corporation)

ARLINGTON, Va. (Zero-G PR) — How do you get (and keep) your students’ attention during a lesson? By testing the limits of gravity with a ride in the nation’s only weightless laboratory! Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) has announced plans for Mission: Microgravity, a nationwide competition for students and teachers of grades 8-12, that will award one educator with an out-of-this-world flight experience and a little extra classroom clout.

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First-Time and Frequent-Flying Payloads Benefit from Recent Parabolic Demonstrations

Cryogenic propellant chill-down experiments from the University of Florida have accumulated data over multiple parabolic flight campaigns. Others flew for the first time on ZERO-G’s recent flights. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — From November 13 to 16, Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE modified 727 completed its latest parabolic research flight campaign for Flight Opportunities. Seven NASA-supported technology payloads were demonstrated during the campaign’s four flights.

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NASA’s Flight Opportunities Partnerships

A drone released from a high-altitude balloon carried a payload to evaluate how the equipment could help the FAA detect and track commercial spacecraft entering the National Air Space, (NAS) as it descends from space. (Image Credit: NASA)

Helping to mature space technology while bolstering the commercial space industry.

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — One of the goals of NASA’s Flight Opportunities program is a thriving private-sector space industry that supports innovative new technologies of interest to NASA. Such a marketplace promises to advance the Agency’s exploration goals and provide a wellspring from which NASA can draw resources and expertise, while providing them, in turn, to industry.

“We’re encouraging an industry that has potential to lower the cost and increase the speed of access to space,” says Christopher Baker, program executive for Flight Opportunities. “Additionally, we help validate technologies before they go on to applications in Earth orbit or deep space.”

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Parabolic Flights Advance Space Technologies

G-FORCE-ONE

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A recent series of parabolic flights onboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE aircraft demonstrated a variety of technologies selected by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. The flight campaign consisted of two successful flights on March 21, 2018, lifting off from Orlando Sanford International Airport in Florida.

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Parabolic Flight Campaign – Three ‘Firsts’ in Partial Gravity

A-310 ZERO-G at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. (Credit: DLR, CC-BY 3.0)

BORDEAUX, France (DLR PR) — When the parabolic flight aircraft, the Airbus A310 ZERO-G, takes off from Bordeaux-Mérignac Airport on 5 June 2018, it will be a ‘first’ in several respects: for the first time, only life science experiments will be exposed to three very different gravity conditions during a joint campaign by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR), the European Space Agency (ESA) and French space agency CNES (Centre national d’études spatiales; CNES).

The idea of conducting a pure ‘life science campaign’ originated with the International Space Life Sciences Working Group (ISLSWG), an expert network at space agency level. This particular campaign includes a total of eight experiments – three of them from Germany – over three flight days. Also for the first time, a NASA life science experiment will be on board.
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JPL Researchers Validate Technology Performance on Zero-G Parabolic Flights

Research team members evaluate the performance of the Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics on a March 2017 parabolic flight. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — A series of parabolic flights from Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) in March 2017 enabled researchers to test and validate the performance of two technologies from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL):

  • Comet Sample Verification System (T0164-P): A tool that enables researchers to verify the quantity and volume of a sample from a comet surface before bringing it back to Earth for analysis
  • Biosleeve Gesture Control Interface for Telerobotics (T0161-P): A sleeve-based gesture-recognition interface that provides intuitive force and position control signals from natural arm, hand, and finger movements, with the potential to be embedded in clothing worn by astronauts working on the International Space Station (ISS) and other missions

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University Research Teams Validate Payload Performance on ZERO-G Parabolic Flights

University of Florida students work on revolutionary approach for efficient microgravity transfer line chilldown experiment. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Several payload proposals selected from NASA’s Research Announcement: Space Technology Research, Development, Demonstration, and Infusion (REDDI) 2016 solicitation flew as part of a Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G) parabolic flight campaign during two weeks in March 2017.

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William Shatner to Float on Zero-G Flight


LAS VEGAS (Zero-G PR) – Star Trek® fans rejoice! Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G®) has partnered with Roddenberry Adventures to offer an extraordinary ZERO-G Experience® with William Shatner, beloved star of the iconic television series. For the first time, fans will have the chance to fly in zero gravity with the man who played Captain Kirk. A limited number of tickets for this exclusive flight on August 4 are now on sale to the general public.

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ZERO-G Research Flights Advance Technology for Future Deep-Space Missions


ORLANDO, Fla,
April 6, 2017 (Zero-G PR) – As part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G®) recently worked with research groups from University of Florida, Carthage College and University of Maryland to validate technology designed to further humanity’s reach into space. A collection of flights on G-FORCE ONE, ZERO-G’s specially modified Boeing 727, gave researchers the chance to run experiments and test innovative systems in the only FAA-approved, manned microgravity lab on Earth.

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Swiss Space Systems Declares Bankruptcy

SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)
SOAR spaceplane atop an A-300. (Credit: S3)

A court in the Swiss canton of Vaud declared Swiss Space Systems (S3) bankrupt last Wednesday, according to media reports.

S3 has been developing an air-launch satellite booster and had planned to offer parabolic aircraft flights to the public later this year.

The bankruptcy declaration comes after nearly two years of financial difficulties. Members of the U.S. office departed the company at the end of 2015 after going much of the year without being paid.

Founder and CEO Pascal Jaussi was hospitalized in August with serious burns. He told authorities two men forced him to drive to a remote area where they doused him with gasoline and set him on fire.