NASA Selects US Firms to Provide Commercial Suborbital Flight Services

NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program has selected four companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads 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.

Through these new awards, selected companies will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services, drawing from a pool of commercial space companies. The five-year contracts have a combined potential contract value of $45 million. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.

The selected companies are:

  • Aerostar International (Raven Aerostar), Sioux Falls, South Dakota
  • Blue Origin Texas, LLC, Van Horn, Texas
  • Up Aerospace Inc., Littleton, Colorado
  • World View Enterprises, Inc., Tucson, Arizona

NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD) is charged with maturing crosscutting technologies to flight readiness status for future space missions. The agency’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, manages the Flight Opportunities Program for STMD.

During the coming year, STMD will make significant new investments that address several high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration. It continues to solicit the help of the best and brightest minds in academia, industry, and government to drive innovation and enable solutions in important technology thrust areas. These planned investments are addressing high priority challenges for achieving safe and affordable deep space exploration.

For more information on the program, visit:

https://www.nasa.gov/flightopportunities

Latest Blue Origin Launch Tests Technologies of Interest to Space Exploration

NASA SFEM-2 team poses in front of the Blue Origin capsule after a successful launch and landing that tested sensor technologies for measuring critical data, such as acceleration, pressure, temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide levels and acoustic levels inside a spacecraft. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — On July 18, 2018, at 8:35 am PDT, Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard rocket from the company’s West Texas launch site with five NASA-supported technologies onboard. For each of these payloads, this flight was one in a series of suborbital demonstrations to facilitate technology development.

The flight helped researchers collect critical data to help them confirm theories, refine previous results and fine-tune experiments for future testing.

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Sample Return Technology Successfully Tested on Masten Xodiac Rocket

Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket flight tests Honeybee Robotics pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, in Mojave Desert. (Credits: NASA Photo / Lauren Hughes)

MOJAVE, Calif. (NASA PR) — Just a sample will do.

Honeybee Robotics in Pasadena, California, flight tested its pneumatic sampler collection system, PlanetVac, on Masten Space Systems’ Xodiac rocket on May 24, launching from Mojave, California, and landing to collect a sample of more than 320 grams of top soil from the surface of the desert floor.

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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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NASA Seeks Research Proposals for Space Technologies to Flight Test

Carthage College researchers testing their propellant mass gauging experiment in zero gravity. (Credit: NASA)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate’s Flight Opportunities program is seeking research proposals for promising space technologies that benefit future NASA space exploration missions. Selected technologies from industry and academia will be flight-tested on commercial suborbital launch vehicles, reduced gravity aircraft and high-altitude balloon flights.

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World View Executes NASA Flight Opportunities Program Mission

Balloon launch. (Credit: World View)

TUCSON, Ariz. (World View PR) – World View, the stratospheric exploration company, announced today that it has successfully executed a Z-Class high-altitude mission commissioned by the NASA Flight Opportunities program office (FOP) for two principal customers, the NASA Ames Research Center  and Space Environment Technologies, both of whom are studying radiation detection and its energy levels at different altitudes.

The Z-Class mission launched from Spaceport Tucson at approximately 9:39 a.m. PT on Thursday, March 29, 2018.

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A Closer Look at NASA’s FY 2018 Budget


by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Despite a last minute threat of a veto, President Donald Trump signed an $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill on Friday that boosts NASA spending by about $1.1 billion to $20.7 billion.

So, with the fiscal year nearly half over, let’s take a closer look at NASA’s FY 2018 budget, which the Administration had tried to cut. The table below lays out the numbers from the omnibus bill, the Administration’s request and the FY 2017 budget.

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NASA Flight Opportunities Program Issues Pre-Solicitation Notice for Flight and Payload Services


On December 20, NASA released a pre-solicitation notice for an upcoming solicitation entitled ‘Flight and Payload Integration Services’. Deadline to submit questions is January 3, 2018 (see below).
Some excerpts from the pre-solicitation:
NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (NASA AFRC) intends to solicit and award a multiple Indefinite Delivery Indefinite Quantity contract for Flight and Payload Integration Services. The duration of the contract period is anticipated to be 5 years.
This requirement is to provide flight and payload integration services. Typical platforms will include (but are not limited to) high-altitude balloons, spacecraft, sounding rockets, and vertical flight testbeds, which must be capable of meeting one or more of the required flight profiles.
Vehicles for flight services shall be currently operational, and has conclusively demonstrated the capability to meet or exceed the minimum performance requirements as defined in the flight profiles. Legacy vehicles not currently in operational status will not be considered as qualified vehicle for the purposes of meeting the flight profile requirements. Vehicles must be capable of accommodating a minimum payload mass of 4Kg and minimum payload volume equivalent to a 4U cubesat (4L or 4,000cc).
This notice is not a Request for Proposal (RFP). Potential Offerors should monitor the Federal Business Opportunity website for the potential release of a RFP or any changes. All contractual and technical questions must be submitted in writing to Jenny Staggs at jenny.y.staggs@nasa.gov no later than January 3, 2018. Oral communications are not acceptable in response to this notice.
Please read the full text of the pre-solicitation with the specific flight profiles at: https://www.fbo.gov/spg/NASA/DFRC/OPDC20220/80AFRC18R0006/listing.html

Blue Origin New Shepard Flies Commercial Payloads

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

KENT, Wa. (Blue Origin PR) — On Dec. 12, 2017, New Shepard flew again for the seventh time. Known as Mission 7 (M7), the flight featured our next-generation booster and the first flight of Crew Capsule 2.0. While our primary objective was to progress testing this new system for human spaceflight, we also achieved an exciting milestone with suborbital research in space by sending 12 commercial, research and education payloads under full FAA license for the first time.

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Final Frontier Design Completes Testing & Validation of IVA Suit

IVA spacesuit in a “float” test. (Credit: Final Frontier Design)

BROOKLYN, NEW YORK, December 20, 2017 (FFD PR) – Final Frontier Design (FFD) completed 4 microgravity research flights on Zero Gravity Corporation’s (ZERO-G) Boeing 727, in November 2017, to evaluate and qualify their Intra Vehicular Activity (IVA) space suit for the dynamic environment of space flight.

The testing marks the culmination of a NASA Flight Opportunities Program cooperative agreement with FFD, and was supported by Integrated Spaceflight Services (ISS) of Boulder, Colorado. A team of 15 people from FFD and ISS assisted to safely execute the mission.

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Future Looks (Mostly) Bright for Space Industry in DC


The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference is being held in Colorado through today. I wasn’t able to attend this year, but the following folks are there tweeting away:

  • Jeff Foust‏ @jeff_foust
  • Rand Simberg‏ @Rand_Simberg
  • Colorado Space News‏ @CO_Space_News
  • Laura Seward Forczyk @LauraForczyk

Below are updates based upon their tweets on what is happening in Washington, DC, from talks by officials from the FAA, NASA, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.
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ZERO-G Provides Colleges Unique Opportunity for Microgravity Research


ORLANDO, Fla. – December 18, 2017
–  Zero Gravity Corporation (ZERO-G®), the only FAA-approved weightless flight provider in the U.S, provided a microgravity test lab for collegiate research teams, most of which were funded by NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. Students from seven colleges collected crucial data from their individual technologies in the microgravity environment made possible by the parabolic flight pattern of ZERO-G’s specially modified Boeing 727, G-FORCE ONE.

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NASA Funds Flight for Space Medical Technology on Blue Origin

New Shepard capsule after landing. (Credit: Blue Origin)

VAN HORN, Texas (NASA PR) — Blue Origin successfully launched its New Shepard reusable space vehicle on Dec. 12 carrying a medical technology that could potentially treat chest trauma in a space environment.

The New Shepard reusable vertical takeoff and vertical landing space vehicle was launched with the experimental technology from Blue Origin’s West Texas launch site.  In addition to NASA funding non-government researchers to fly payloads, Blue Origin is a Flight Opportunities program launch provider for government payloads. The Flight Opportunities program, is managed under NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate (STMD).

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NASA Selects New Technologies to Flight Test on Parabolic Aircraft, Balloons & Suborbital Rockets


EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — NASA has selected nine space technologies to test on low-gravity-simulating aircraft, high-altitude balloons or suborbital rockets. The opportunity to fly on these vehicles helps advance technologies closer to practical use by taking them from a laboratory environment to a real-world environment. The selections were made by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program, which conducts a competition approximately twice per year for funding to fly payloads using flight providers selected by the proposers. These space technologies are being tested using relatively low-cost flights that simulate spaceflight or just reach the “edge” of space.

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World View Successfully Flight Tests Groundbreaking Altitude Control Technology

The World View Stratollite consists of a primary lift balloon (top), secondary balloons (middle), a solar panel power generation and distribution system, and a stratocraft payload-carrying structure (bottom). (Credits: World View)

EDWARDS, Calif. (NASA PR) — Long-duration stratospheric research missions could allow scientists to collect vast amounts of data continuously for their payloads. Such missions could benefit NASA by maturing future space technology as well as allowing for Earth observations, such as storm monitoring and forest fire tracking.

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