October 18, 2011 by staff
SpaceShipTwo will use NASA to carry out science experiements in microgravity to a suborbital altitude of about 350,000 feet above sea level, Virgin Galactic, said Thursday. NASA has signed a contract to 4.5 million (£ 2.85m) from three separate flights.
“These flight research marks an important milestone for Virgin Galactic,” the company said in a statement. “Providing access to space researchers and their experiments is seen by Virgin Galactic as a segment of the mission for the future and a major business opportunity.”
The ship can carry 589kg of scientific material and offers about four minutes of time in microgravity. NASA selected the SpaceShipTwo under its Flight Opportunities Program, which gives money to commercial companies through public sector contracts. The program combines easy access to the space environment for Technology (FAST) and Commercial reusable suborbital research efforts (CRuSR).
SpaceShipTwo is “well adapted” to the conduct of scientific research in atmospheric science, meteorological science, heliophysics, and Earth and Planetary Sciences, Virgin Galactic, says in promotional materials for art (PDF). NASA has not yet decided on specific experiments to be carried out on flights.
Other spacecraft in the run for the money include New Shepard NASA, conducted by Blue Origin, a company founded by Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos, Armadillo Aerospace Super Mod, supported by John Carmack of computer game software ID unconditional; Xaero of Masten Space Systems, which is backed by Joel Scotkin financial software Computer specialists random walk, and XCOR Aerospace Lynx.
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