Aug. 30, 2011 — Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) has been selected to provide payload flight integration services as part of three suborbital flight provider contracts recently announced by NASA to Virgin Galactic, XCOR and Masten Space Systems. These contracts are an important step forward for the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, funded by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist and managed by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif., and affirm the need for commercial space access for a range of research and educational applications.
"We're excited for ourselves, for our flight provider partners and for NASA. These wins add to SwRI's growing base of payload and payload specialist work and experience in the next generation of suborbital research being undertaken with reusable vehicles such as XCOR's Lynx I, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip 2 and the bevy of vehicles Masten will be flying," says Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of SwRI's Space Science and Engineering Division, and the architect of SwRI's next-generation suborbital programs using these and similar vehicles.
"We're looking forward to seeing dozens and later hundreds of payloads flying in space aboard suborbital vehicles in the coming years," adds SwRI Space Operations Department director and suborbital payload integration proposal manager John Andrews. "The potential for new science, new technology testing and a wide array of educational applications is literally staggering."
SwRI's history of suborbital research stretches back more than 30 years using sounding rockets, and now includes the payload integration work awarded as a part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program, as well as a series of internally funded experiments SwRI designed and will operate aboard Virgin Galactic and XCOR vehicles, perhaps beginning as soon as 18 months from now.
For more information, contact Maria Stothoff, (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.