NASA seeks proposals for technology flight demonstrations and information about surborbital flight services

Last week NASA issued both an Announcement of Opportunity (AO) for 'Opportunities for Payloads Requiring a Near-zero or Reduced Gravity Environment' and a Request for Information (RFI) for 'Flight and Payload Integration Services'. More information about these two announcements is available in the NASA Press Release:

WASHINGTON -- NASA is seeking proposals from researchers interested in testing new technologies during suborbital flights. The agency also is requesting information from commercial suborbital reusable launch vehicle providers and commercial payload integrators about carrying the technology payloads.

The selected payloads will fly on aircraft that provide parabolic flight trajectories and on suborbital reusable launch vehicles capable of flying to altitudes above 62 miles. The flights will expose the payloads to reduced gravity and near-zero gravity environments.

"During these flights, researchers will be able to test their technologies in a range of microgravity environments and share their data with NASA -- data NASA can use when planning future missions," said Bobby Braun, NASA chief technologist at the agency's headquarters in Washington.

The solicitation is being made by NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, which is designed to foster development of a commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry while developing new technologies and improving microgravity research. When available ...Read More

Successful CRuSR Payload Readiness Review (PRR)

On November 23rd we held our first successful Payload Readiness Review (PRR) for payloads flying on the first CRuSR development flights with Masten's Xaero vehicle. The two payloads under review were the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM) developed in-house at NASA Ames Research Center, and the FAA-provided ADS-B transponder (see the payloads section for more information). The purpose of the PRR was to review the payload status and surface any remaining issues from the payload point of view in order to safely pass the flight readiness review scheduled for late December.

Both payloads are mounted together in a payload rack developed at NASA Ames Research Center. The payload rack is designed to acommodate payloads on both Xaero and Super Mod. It abstracts away the different vehicles similar to how food containers are used on airplanes. It is able to hold several payloads and provides for easy mounting and exchange of payloads between flights. More information about the payload rack will be made available in the coming weeks.

NSRC2011 abstract deadline days away

A message from our colleagues at the Next-Generation Suborbital Research Conference (NSRC):

The abstract deadline is FAST APPROACHING for the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference! The deadline is Tue Nov 23 – and for a limited time, authors of ALL accepted abstracts (for posters and talks) will receive a 50% discount on NASTAR Center Suborbital Space Flight Training! (See http://nsrc.swri.org for details.)

Hosted by Space Florida, the University of Central Florida, and the Southwest Research Institute, NSRC is the meeting for researchers, educators and industry leaders wanting to participate in, learn about, and contribute to the new era of commercial, reusable suborbital spaceflight. Sessions include:

solar physics
atmospheric and ionospheric sciences
life sciences
space physics
education and public outreach
international industry
Earth remote sensing
technology testing
suborbital space flight training
Over 350 people attended the NSRC 2010 meeting in Boulder, Colorado, and still more are expected at the 2011 meeting in just three months.

NSRC-2011 will take place on the University of Central Florida campus Feb 28 to Mar 2, 2011.

Reserve your seat by registering soon at http://nsrc.swri.org And if you are a college student in Florida, be sure to check out the ...Read More

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2011

Registration for the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2011) is now OPEN! Hosted by Space Florida, the University of Central Florida, and the Southwest Research Institute, NSRC is the meeting for researchers and educators wanting to participate in, learn about, and contribute to the new era of commercial, reusable suborbital spaceflight.

Reserve your seat by registering today at http://nsrc.swri.org; abstracts for talks can also be submitted at this web site. The conference will take place on the University of Central Florida campus Feb 28 to Mar 2, 2011.

On behalf of the sponsors and the conveners of NSRC-2011, we look forward to your participation in beautiful Orlando this February!

Virgin Galactic's VSS Enterprise makes first piloted free flight

More at Virgin Galactic

2010 FAST flight week

NASA sponsored a series of flights during the week of September 27, 2010 for testing technologies in reduced-gravity conditions. This unique flight opportunity conducted at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas was the third year for NASA's Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST) program. The 16 research teams that participated were comprised of small businesses, university groups, and NASA researchers from Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Texas and California.

For more see our Feature Story.

Armadillo Super Mod test flight

(via RLV and Space Transport News)

Opportunities to participate in SLI review panels

Student Launch Initiative (SLI)
The Academic Affairs Office at NASA Marshall Space Flight Center is seeking NASA employees, contractors and hobby rocket enthusiasts (National Association of Rocketry or Tripoli Rocketry Association) to participate on Student Launch Initiative (SLI) and/or University Student Launch Initiative (USLI) review panels. SLI and USLI challenges middle/high school and college students to design, build and launch a reusable rocket to one mile above ground level carrying a scientific or engineering payload. The project began in 2000 with local high school and university teams. In 2003, it became a nationwide project, and in 2010, 32 middle/high school and college teams successfully launched to complete the project.

Looking for additional technical panel reviewers
The project requires teams to submit a proposal, a preliminary design review, a critical design review, a flight readiness review and a post-launch assessment review during an eight-month time frame. Because of the project’s growth and growing interest, additional technical panel reviewers are needed. During the reviews, panel members review reports and student presentations, make suggestions and comments on the design and construction of the rockets and payloads, and check for any safety issues.

Student Launch Projects Review Panel workshop
The ...Read More

CRuSR awards contracts

Just in:

NASA Selects Two Firms for Experimental Space Vehicle Test Flights

WASHINGTON -- NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.

The flights will demonstrate the capabilities of new vehicles to provide recoverable launch and testing of small payloads going to "near-space," the region of Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads.

"These two awards are just the beginning of an innovative teaming relationship with industry to provide affordable access to the edge of space while evaluating the microgravity environment for future science and technology experiments," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "CRuSR represents the sort of government-commercial partnership that will facilitate near-space access at affordable costs."

The CRuSR awards will fund two flights ...Read More

CRuSR included in ROSES 2010

Proposal opportunities involving commercial reusable suborbital vehicles through the CRuSR program have been included in the ongoing solicitation for Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences (ROSES) 2010.

From Amendment 11 to the ROSES-2010 call:

Commercial reusable suborbital research (CRuSR) vehicles may offer new capabilities for the conduct of NASA scientific research, education, and technology advancement. CRuSR vehicles are anticipated to be operational by 2011, and there may also be flight research opportunities as the vehicles are tested and demonstrated.

The use of these commercial services may reduce the cost of suborbital flight research by leveraging private investment. In FY 2011, NASA plans to establish a Flight Opportunities Program. This program office will assist proposers with CRuSR vehicle platforms. The Flight Opportunities Program will reside within the Office of the Chief Technologist. Proposals seeking use of CRuSR platforms must take advantage of the platform’s unique capabilities. Proposers interested in using CRuSR vehicles to conduct an Earth or space science investigation must identify a vehicle that can provide the technical capabilities required to conduct the proposed investigation. Proposals must be for investigations that make use of an attached payload; the payload must be operated autonomously or remotely. No NASA sponsored ...Read More

CRuSR at NewSpace 2010

Late July Douglas Maclise of the CRuSR Program Office at NASA Ames Research Center presented the current status of the CRuSR program to an audience at the NewSpace2010 conference in Sunnyvale, California. His presentation and the follow-on panel discussion with members of the commercial reusable suborbital community is available online for viewing. The CRuSR presentation by Douglas Maclise is between 14:15 to 24:05:

» NewSpace2010: Suborbital Spaceflight Session (video) →

Amendment #3 to CRuSR Flight Services RFQ

A new amendment has been published on monday July 19th that includes the following provisions:
- The due date for receipt of offers is extended. All offers for the services required by the solicitation are due by Friday July 23, 2010, no later than 1:00 PM Pacific time
- Additional FAR and NASA FAR Supplement (NFS) clauses are added to the solicitation and will be incorporated into all contracts that result from the solicitation
- CRuSR Questions and Answers Set 3 is attached to the RFQ

Flight Opportunities presented at OCT Industry Forum

Flight Opportunities Program Presentation (PDF)

The Flight Opportunities Program was presented today at Day 1 of the Industry Forum organised by NASA's Office of the Chief Technologist (OCT). Both the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) activity and the Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology (FAST) activity will be transitioned into the Flight Opportunities Program within the Office of the Chief Technologist in FY11.

More information from Day 1 of the Industry Forum is available at this OCT website. For an up-to-date account of the Forum, follow the @NASA_technology twitter.

Amendment #2 to CRuSR Flight Services RFQ

A new set of Questions and Answers [pdf] has been released today as part of the combined synopsis/RFQ for Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research (CRuSR) Flight Services.

CRuSR and the new Space Policy

Last week, the Obama Administration issued a new succinct but far reaching Space Policy that encompasses all three sectors involved in space: civil, commercial and military. The policy outlines 5 guiding principles including a commitment to openness, transparency, and sustainability; the importance of a robust, competitive and innovative commercial sector; the rights of all humanity to space; and the rights of all responsible parties to peaceful and defensive use of space systems. Goals include developing space related industries, international cooperation, improved science and both human and robotic initiatives. Specific guidelines are defined for the three space sectors. Support for commercial space that is entrepreneurial and cost effective is clear and reaffirms the national commitment to programs such as CRuSR.

Read more about the new Space Policy on www.whitehouse.gov. The Policy itself is available here.

Amendment #1 to CRuSR Flight Services RFQ

We've published an amendment to the CRuSR Flight Services RFQ posted last week to share a first set of CRuSR Questions and Answers following the release of the RFQ. The due date for receipt of offers has also been extended to July 20, 2010.

To read more:
» CRuSR RFQ Modification 25 June, 2010
» CRuSR Questions and Answers Set 1

CRuSR Flight Services RFQ

A new Request for Quotations (RFQ) has just been released by NASA for the procurement of commercial reusable suborbital flight services under the CRuSR program. As a result of this solicitation NASA intends to award multiple firm fixed price purchase orders to multiple vendors. Each award will be for the purchase of two (02) “rides” for NASA-provided payload and related services on test flights of the vendors’ CRuSR vehicles, with an option for the Government to purchase additional quantities of rides on flights and related services.

Read more:
» Synopsis/Solicitation Combo
» CRuSR Statement of Work 18 June 2010

Potential Suborbital Vehicle Providers: current status

As part of the preparation for yesterday's CRuSR presentation at Goddard Spaceflight Center, potential suborbital vehicle providers gave us an update on their current status. Here is what they said:

Armadillo Aerospace

Armadillo Aerospace LLC is currently flying two vehicles, the MOD and QUAD families, routinely to altitudes in excess of 1-km and with translational capabilities using LOX-Ethanol and LOX-Methane engine technology; payload opportunities exist immediately. Two additional vehicles, the tube vehicle and the SOST suborbital transport, are in fabrication now and will carry payloads to ~150-km, unmanned in 2010 and manned in late 2011.

Blue Origin

Milestones completed: Blue has stated publicly that flight tests to low altitude started in 2006. Because Blue Origin operates from a privately-owned test facility in rural West Texas, public information on flights is generally limited. Planned flights: In 2009 Blue Origin selected three university payloads from Purdue, UCF, and LSU, funded by the National Science Foundation, with experiments scheduled to be delivered to Blue Origin by November 2010. Blue has stated that commercial operations could begin as early as 2011, anticipating eventual rates up to approximately 52 launches per year of the New Shepard vehicle.

Masten Space Systems

Masten is flying test ...Read More

Presentation to NASA's sounding rocket working group

This morning CRuSR Business & Communications Director Gregor Z. Hanuschak presented the current status of the CRuSR program to the Sounding Rocket Working Group at NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

» Presentation slides

Successful mid-flight engine restart by Armadillo Aerospace

In-air relight of Xombie rocket

Today (May 26, 2010) Masten Space Systems demonstrated an in-air relight of their VTVL reusable rocket, XA-0.1B (Xombie). This test flight was a major step towards flying payloads to suborbital altitude. The above video shows a view from a camera mounted on one of the landing legs. More background on this achievement on this update from the Commercial Spaceflight Federation.

CRuSR Environmental Monitor Solicitation Published

The Synopsis/Solicitation Combo for two flight environment monitors was published last week. The two flight environment monitors will be used as part of the CRuSR program to establish the environmental conditions that research payloads and future passengers will be exposed to during CRuSR flights, including pre- and post-flight handling. Deadline for this solication is Monday, May 17, 2010. For more information please see the synopsis/solicitation description on either the NASA Internet Acquisition Service (NAIS) or the FedBizzOps.gov website.

CRuSR slides from Space Access Conference

Image credit: Ian Kluft

The presentation given by CRuSR Program Deputy Manager Douglas Maclise at the Space Access 2010 conference last week is now available (pdf).

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2010

Above: Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference

The conference presentation given by Project Manager, Mike Skidmore, is available here. The notes which were put together for this conference for Dr. Pete Worden are available here. Note that the information in the notes is a copy-paste from the sources cited.

February 9 IPP meeting

IPP Meeting (Feb 9, 2010)
Above: the audience at the IPP Meeting on February 9

Here is the CRuSR presentation made by Project Manager Mike Skidmore at the IPP Meeting on Tuesday, February 9, the day before the 13th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference.

Web Accessibility and Privacy Notices Curator: Alexander van Dijk Responsible NASA Official: Douglas Maclise Last Update: March 31, 2014