Flight Opportunities Program Flight Set for October

UPDATE 2:  The flight has been rescheduled for Nov. 12.  This post has been revised to include a sixth experiment by Satwest.

UPDATE:  Due to the government shutdown, this launch has been postponed.  A new date will be set after the government is up and running again.

The NASA Flight Opportunities Program next launch campaign will take place on Oct. 9 at Spaceport America in New Mexico. A SpaceLoft XL will test six technologies on a suborbital flight.

Descriptions of the payloads and the launch vehicle follow after the break.

Structural Health Monitoring for Commercial Space Vehicles
PI: Andrei Zagrai, New Mexico Institute Of Mining And Technology

spaceloftxl_nfop_vehicle_healthA significant step in addressing safety of commercial space vehicles is development and testing the flight information recorder or “black box”. It is envisioned, that Structural Health Monitoring system (SHM) would be an integral part of the “black box” and would record information on structural integrity during all stages of spaceflight. Consideration of SHM data is useful in pre-flight diagnostics, in-orbit operation and tuning, and in analysis of structural behavior (or disintegration) during spacecraft reentry. SHM information would also play a prominent role in space vehicle re-certification for the next flight.

Technology Areas

  • TA04 Robotics, Tele-Robotics and Autonomous Systems
  • TA09 Entry, Descent and Landing Systems
  • TA12 Materials, Structures, Mechanical Systems and Manufacturing

Flight Testing of a UAT ADS-B Transmitter Prototype for Commercial Space Transportation Using Reusable Launch Vehicles
PI: Richard Stansbury, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Inc.

This project represents flight opportunities for the second phase of flight testing to evaluate a Universal Access Transceiver (UAT) based (978MHz) Automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) transmitter developed to support commercial space transportation (see Technology 33). ERAU aims to flight test this payload on three platforms: (1) Near Space Corporation (NSC) High Altitude Shuttle System (HASS) to evaluate the performance of the payload for a greater flight duration and range, (2) Masten Xaero to assess operation and demonstrate success onboard a VTVL rocket vehicle, and (3) Up Aerospace SpaceLoft XL to assess payload performance in the significantly more hostile, dynamic flight environment (vibration, rotation, and g-loading) of a sounding rocket.

Technology Areas

  • TA13 Ground and Launch Systems Processing

Application Of Controlled Vibrations To Multiphase Systems For Space Applications
PI: Ricard González-Cinca, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, Richard Tyson (Co-I), University of Alabama

The management of multiphase flows is a key element in many space systems, from fuel tanks to Environmental Control & Life Support Systems (ECLSS). Recent theoretical and experimental works have shown that vibrations play a fundamental role in the behaviour of these flows in microgravity. A system generating the required vibrations for each application can be an efficient technology to manage multiphase flows in space. In this experiment we present a payload for the generation of controlled harmonic translational vibrations in multiphase systems in microgravity conditions. Our aim is to mature this technology by acquiring the necessary knowledge for its use in space applications. In particular, the NASA ISS experiment Nucleate boiling in long-term cryogenic propellant storage in microgravity will benefit of the results obtained during the series of flights in the sRLV.

Technology Areas

  • TA02 In-Space Propulsion Technologies
  • TA06 Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems
  • TA07 Human Exploration Destination Systems
  • TA14 Thermal Management Systems

Test of Satellite Communications Systems on-board Suborbital Platforms to provide low-cost data communications for Research Payloads, Payload Operators, and Space Vehicle Operators
PI: Brian Barnett, SatWest Consulting, LLC

Satwest is partnering with Bosque School’s Physics II lab to send the world’s first texts into space. The students will follow the SpaceLoft XL flight via the hashtag #TextsToSpace. Once a specific altitude is achieved, a series of thirty texts will be issued by the students, and tweeted live throughout the event. Once the craft has returned to earth, a recovery team will return the rocket to Spaceport America. Satwest will retrieve the payload, and confirm receipt of the Bosque texts.

Global Positioning Beacon (GPB)
PI: Jason Armstrong, ORS / AFRL

No details provided

New Mexico Student Groups #3 and #4 for SL-8
PI: Pat Hynes, New Mexico Space Grant Consortium

No details provided

SpaceLoft XL


The SpaceLoft™ is a reusable launch vehicle that was developed by UP Aerospace in 2006 as a microgravity research platform for education, scientific research, and commercial payloads. The vehicle consists of an expendable carbon composite solid rocket booster, avionics and recovery section, and a payload bay. The SpaceLoft™ launch system is designed with robust margins of safety, and redundancy throughout all mission critical systems.

The first test flight of SpaceLoft™ occurred in September of 2006 with the first mission to successfully reach space in April of 2007. The SpaceLoft™ payload delivery system has flown commercially 5 times with over 40 payload customers, is flight proven and fully operational. The most recent launch of the SpaceLoft™ system was on May 20, 2011; flown to an altitude of 118 km experiencing in excess of 4 minutes of microgravity time.

Flight Profile

SpaceLoft™ is ground launched from Spaceport America using a remote hydraulic launcher and automated launch systems. The solid rocket motor burns for 12 seconds and reaches space within 60 seconds. A de-spin system slows the roll rate to near zero when microgravity experiments can begin to be conducted. The payload section remains weightless in excess of 4 minutes.

During the re-entry phase of the flight the booster section is released and the payload and recovery sections are balanced to trim in a horizontal orientation to slow the vehicle. At about a mile above the ground redundant onboard controls release the drogue parachute system which orientates the payload section in a vertical heads down attitude. 10 seconds after drogue deploy the main parachute is released and provides a soft landing on White Sands Missile Range. UP Aerospace and Army recovery crews are immediately dispatched to the landing site to retrieve the payload(s) and fly it back to Spaceport America where they are unloaded from the payload bay and provide back to the customers onsite.

Payload  Configuration & Integration

The heart of the SpaceLoft™ payload delivery system is the patent pending Payload Transportation System™ (PTS) . Each standard SpaceLoft™ mission contains seven PTS containers with two different sizes to choose from.The  PTS10 is the larger of the two with internal dimensions measuring 23.5 cm tall and a diameter of 24.8 cm. The PTS4 internal dimensions are 8.3 cm in height and a diameter of 24.8 cm. All PTS containers have access to the space environment through opening in the vehicle airframe and access panels. Options for each PTS include discrete command, power modules, and telemetry which can be customized to match specific payload requirements.

Once a payloader is signed up to a particular mission the PTS container(s) are provided directly to the payloader to begin payload configuration, layout and mechanical mounting of hardware. Following a successful Payload Readiness Review the PTS containers are then shipped back to UP Aerospace to complete payload integration process and certification for flight onboard the SpaceLoft™.