Advanced science.  Applied technology.


Southwest Research Institute organizes first NASTAR Suborbital Space Scientist Training course for future research astronauts

August 11, 2009 — Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), working with The National AeroSpace Training and Research (NASTAR) Center, is leading a program that will provide spaceflight physiology training for prospective scientist-astronauts wishing to fly on upcoming suborbital space missions.

The SwRI-NASTAR Suborbital Space Scientist course, which is similar to training courses used by the space tourism industry, will be taught to a select set of a dozen scientists, graduate students and educators from U.S. research and educational institutions and is designed to acquaint and qualify individuals with the physiological rigors of suborbital human spaceflight.

The NASTAR Center, which provides training and research support for the aerospace industry, will host the two-day course at its facility outside Philadelphia in January 2010. The course will include space flight training and altitude physiology, as well as classroom work, centrifuge flights, altitude chamber runs and other training elements.

Institutions sending researchers, students or educators to the inaugural program include SwRI, Boston University, the Denver Museum of Natural Sciences (DMNS), the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL), the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Central Florida and the University Space Research Association (USRA).

Before organizing the course, SwRI's Dr. Alan Stern and Dr. Daniel Durda visited The NASTAR Center in June 2009 to survey its facilities; Stern then invited various leaders in the new field of human suborbital Research and Education Missions (REM) to participate.

"NASTAR is the leader in private space flight training," says Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. "Having trained for and flown high-performance F-18s and high-altitude reconnaissance jets like the WB-57, I could see that NASTAR was uniquely positioned to support this program with its extensive, modern facilities and their application to suborbital research in space by scientists, engineers, educators and even students."

"Alan and I will be taking this course ourselves under an SwRI initiative," adds SwRI Principal Scientist Durda. "The coming era of commercial suborbital space flight offers tremendous potential for the research and education communities. We hope the day won't be far off when our first suborbital research flights have been contracted for and our first research experiments are being constructed."

"We found no shortage of participants lining up to devote their time and funds to take the course," concludes Stern.

Editors: For more information on The NASTAR Center spaceflight training program and Southwest Research Institute, visit

For more information contact Maria Stothoff at (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.