Feb. 18, 2010 — Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®) announces a new initiative to build and fly experiments with SwRI payload specialists on next-generation suborbital vehicles.
The program, supported with a $1 million allocation from SwRI, will be led by Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of the SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. It is the first program of its kind in the nation.
"We are strong believers in the power of commercial, next-generation suborbital vehicles to advance space science and sensor technology," says Stern. "We also believe strongly in the tremendous advances promised by the newly emerging capability to put scientists in space with their experiments. The program we are announcing today will put SwRI researchers at the very forefront of these exciting new applications in space flight."
Over the next three years, SwRI scientists will develop and fly microgravity and space astronomy experiments on multiple suborbital space flights. SwRI researchers, including Stern and project co-investigator Dr. Daniel Durda are expected to fly with and operate the suborbital experiments in flight. Stern and Durda recently led the first group of researchers and educators to train for suborbital space flight in centrifuge and altitude chamber facilities at The NASTAR Center near Philadelphia.
"Welcome to the future!" says Durda. "We're finally arriving at the day when space scientists can conduct their research 'in the field' in the same way that botanists, geologists and oceanographers have been doing all along. We hope many of our fellow researchers and educators in the diverse disciplines that will benefit from frequent access to space will also get in line to fly," he adds.
SwRI's researchers anticipate building on the next-generation suborbital research effort, says Stern, who adds, "We hope to leverage these internally funded efforts into a wide range of future projects in next-generation suborbital flight stretching out across the decade of the 20-teens."
For more information contact Maria Stothoff at (210) 522-3305, Communications Department, Southwest Research Institute, 6220 Culebra Road, San Antonio, TX 78238-5166.