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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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. (more…)
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
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.
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.
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.
A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) conduct a review of its regulations for space support vehicles used to train space tourists and conduct reduced gravity experiments.
“The Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOT) should direct the FAA Administrator to fully examine and document whether the FAA’s current regulatory framework is appropriate for space support vehicles and, if not, suggest legislative or regulatory changes, or both, as applicable,” the report states.