NASA Awards Suborbital Contracts to Virgin Galactic and Three More

NASA has announce the four companies it awarded their suborbital payload contracts to in an announcement on Monday. The companies all got the same contract that gives “indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity for integration and flight services” over a three-year period. Each contract is worth a minimum of $100.000 and can be extended with a 2-year option.

They will fly technology payloads on the commercial suborbital reusable platforms and carry payloads up till ‘near the boundary of space’. The selection is part of NASA’s continuing effort to foster a viable market for American commercial reusable suborbital platforms that allow testing of new space technologies within Earth’s atmosphere.

The four companies are Virgin Galactic, which is best known for developing its space tourism program with the SpaceShipTwo craft. The company is also actively working to offer the use of their vehicle for scientific research. The company is also developing LauncherOne, which will aim to deliver small satellites into orbit. The next on the list is Masten Space Systems  which is working to develop vertical take-off, vertical landing unmanned spacecraft’s. The company is mostly known for winning the $1 million Lunar Lander X-Prize in 2009.

UP Aerospace is the third company with a focus on developing suborbital rockets to deliver research payloads, and already launched a rocket for NASA last year. The fourth and last company is Paragon Space Development Corporation and their approach is a little bit different as they mainly make equipment for others. They have teamed up with with World View Experience to use balloons to take commercial passengers to the “edge of space”, about 120,000 feet above the earth’s surface.

“We’ve made tremendous progress in working toward the goal of regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads,” said Michael Gazarik, associate administrator for Space Technology at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “These proven flight service providers will allow for payloads from organizations including NASA, industry, academia, and other government agencies to be tested on flights to the edge of space before being committed to demonstration in the harsh environment of space itself.”

Thank you NASA for providing us with these information

Image courtesy of VirginGalactic.