Pat Hynes’s Enchanted Commercial Space Camp

I recently attended the 7th annual International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. It’s my second time doing so, and I’m still trying to grasp what makes the gathering so special to so many, including me. It is sometimes referred to as the “Pat Hynes event” partly due to that easier-to-remember name, but I think that’s also a clue to its uniqueness. Hynes’s ongoing role as ISPCS Chair ensures that the New Mexico state motto, “Land of Enchantment” is infused into the overall flavor of the event. I think for her enchantment can help empower people to access what they need – something she hopes to accomplish by all her efforts. 

Hynes was instrumental in designing and developing the ISPCS with the aim to foster growth of commercial space enterprises and thereby provide lower-cost, more frequent and broader access to space. Her base of operations for years has been at New Mexico State University (NMSU) where she is Director of the New Mexico Space Grant Consortium. The ISPCS is just one of its many programs. NSMU awarded her with undergrad (English), masters (Higher-Ed Management) and doctorate (Business Administration) degrees, which surely ...Read More

Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2012

NSRC logo

Registration and abstract submittal for the 2012 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC-2012) is now OPEN!

Abstracts are due December 2, 2011.

Hosted by NASA Ames Research Center, the Southwest Research Institute, and the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, 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. 

At NSRC-2011, over 350 people participated, over 400 are expected this year. The conference will take place at the Crowne Royal Hotel in Palo Alto, CA, near NASA Ames Research Center, on February 27-29, 2012. 

Sessions range over topics from planetary science, atmospheric science, and astro/solar physics applications of next-gen suborbital vehicles for research, to how-to panels and talks on the various launch companies and NASA's funding for research and education opportunities aboard these vehicles. Student participation is highly encouraged. Students receive discounted registration with valid student ID.

Register at http://nsrc.swri.org/. We hope to see you there!

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New Space Markets Explored by Space Entrepreneurs & Silicon Valley CEOs

The MIT/Stanford Venture Lab (VLab), a San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the MIT Enterprise Forum, met at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, on September 20th. The MIT Enterprise Forum is “a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting the growth and success of high-tech entrepreneurial ventures by connecting ideas, technology and people.”

The VLab event was titled “Space Exploration: Not Just for Billionaires Anymore”. A well-attended 1-hour networking session preceded the 1.5 hour plenary session. The networking zone included a large lawn, some New Space exhibits (including a NASA ARC-linked PhoneSat), good food, iced beer and wine. I saw several familiar faces but many more new ones. Young entrepreneurs were everywhere.

The Moderator was A. Kollipara, Managing Partner of Earth2Orbit and a Strategic Consultant. The single presenter was R. Pournelle, Sr. VP of Business Development, Nanoracks. A three-person follow-on panel included: Will Pomerantz, VP Special Projects, Virgin Galactic; Bob Richards, Co-founder/CEO, Moon Express; and A. Tadros, VP Civil and DoD Business, Space Systems/Loral. Profiles were provided for all.

Kollipara noted that candidate VLab events are always pitched to management by a small team of members and in this case, it was a hard sell. But, as ...Read More

Suborbital Research Stakeholders Gather at GSFC Workshop

The NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s (GSFC) Innovative Partnerships Program and Earth Science Division hosted a “Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop” on September 7, 2011. The purpose was to have several commercial developers of suborbital reusable launch vehicles (sRLVs) present information to Earth and Space scientists about their emerging capabilities to fly research payloads to the edge of space.

Company presenters included:

  • Neil Milburn, Armadillo Aerospace, LLC
  • Colin Ake, Masten Space Systems
  • Khaki McKee, XCOR Aerospace
  • Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic
  • Jerry Larson, Up Aerospace
  • Chuck Lauer, Rocketplane Global

Some commercial payload integrators also attended such as John Savage, Spaceflight Services.

LK Kubendran, the Executive Officer for NASA’s Flight Opportunities (FO) Program gave an update on the Program focused mostly on sRLV-based research aspects. These vehicles will enable researchers to directly access the mesosphere, lower thermosphere region of the atmosphere from 50km to about 100 km altitude for observational and sampling studies. This zone is typically too high for aircraft, and too low for satellites.

Science payloads such as those in development by GSFC Earth and Space scientists via the Research Opportunities in Space & Earth Sciences (ROSES) solicitation can be proposed for flights on these sRLVs. Kubendran’s slides also ...Read More

GSFC Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop

From our colleagues at the Goddard Space Flight Center:

Dear Colleagues,

NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) Innovative Partnership Program (IPP) and Earth Science Division will be hosting a Commercial Suborbital Vehicles Workshop at the GSFC on September 7, 2011.

The purpose of the proposed workshop is to provide information for Earth and Space scientists about these vehicles capabilities, and to examine and discuss science topics that might be conducted from these platforms.

Suborbital reusable launch vehicles could enable researchers to directly access the mesosphere, lower thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere (50-140 km altitude), repeatedly, many times per day, at low-cost, and at very low velocities in many different environmental locations around the planet (no hypersonic shock).

The key opportunities enabled by the unique capabilities of the commercial suborbital vehicles is that they would provide frequent and low cost access to the mesosphere, lower thermosphere (MLT) region of the atmosphere (50-140 km altitude). This region is very difficult to study and especially sample as it is too high for balloons and too low for satellite observations. There are numerous unresolved scientific issues related to the MLT that we simply cannot currently address because of inadequate observational sampling. Atmospheric observations ...Read More

NASA Selects Seven Firms To Provide Near-Space Flight Services

We appreciate the support and endorsements following our press release earlier this week where we announced we've entered into agreements with seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms. We look forward to working with all of these companies to develop and provide flight opportunities for the community.

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected seven companies to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space.

As part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, each successful vendor will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. These two-year contracts, worth a combined total of $10 million, will allow NASA to draw from a pool of commercial space companies to deliver payload integration and flight services. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency's research and technology needs.

"Through this catalog approach, NASA is moving toward the goal of making frequent, low-cost access to near-space available to a wide range of engineers, scientists and technologists," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "The government's ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation ...Read More

Suborbital Spaceflight panel from NewSpace2011

The video of the suborbital spaceflight panel at the NewSpace 2011 conference has been made available online. One of the 5 panelists is Dougal Maclise, Payload Manager of the Flight Opportunities Program.

Commercial Suborbital Spaceflight Presentation Video

Kim Ennico's talk on Commercial Suborbital Spaceflight from June 15th at the SETI institute in Mountain View, California is now available online. See the embedded video below.

Fly Cheap, Fly Often, Fly Safe

Kim Ennico of NASA Ames Research Center will give a presentation at the SETI Institute Wednesday June 15th 12:00-01:00 PM PDT on commercial suborbital science:

Fly Cheap, Fly Often, Fly Safe — Science research & education opportunities on commercial suborbital vehicles
Wednesday, 06/15/11
12:00 PM - 01:00 PM

Access to suborbital space, the realm above 100 km altitude, by vehicles not traveling fast enough to go into orbit about the planet, has a long history, from the 1950's early unmanned scientific sounding rockets for meteorological and upper atmosphere studies, to Alan Shepard's historic Freedom 7 flight 50 years ago, continuing today with multi-science disciplined sounding rocket programs launched from spaceports around the globe. These vehicles follow a parabolic-arc trajectory that also provides many minutes of low gravity enabling "microgravity" experiments. Access to suborbital space is soon to be revolutionized by a series of frequent flights by new providers from the commercial space sector.
Dr. Ennico's talk will highlight these companies, their vehicles and their current timetables. She will showcase some examples of scientific research and education that were presented at the 2011 Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC), held earlier this year in Orlando, Florida ...Read More

Video of Xaero fit and function tests back in January

Early 2011 we headed down to Mojave to perform a fit and function test of our 2 payloads SFEM and ADS-B with the Masten Xaero vehicle. Flight Opportunities Payload Manager Dougal Maclise wrote a good blogpost about the successful tests. While at Masten, we also captured some handheld video which we recently edited into a short impression of the tests. The resulting video is embedded below.

Update your feed

As part of our switch from CRuSR to Flight Opportunities, we will be retiring our CRuSR feedburner feed tomorrow (Tuesday June 6). If you are subscribed to our blog through feedburner (recognizable in the url), please update your feed to https://flightopportunities.nasa.gov/blog/feed/ .

Supermod testing by Armadillo Aerospace

Over the weekend, two videos emerged of tests conducted with the Mod vehicle by Armadillo Aerospace. The Mod vehicle is the one that will fly two payloads provided by NASA as part of the initial developmental flights of CRuSR, or Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research, a program now part of Flight Opportunities.

Caption with above video:

A full throttle hold down test of the Armadillo Aerospace Mod rocket, nicknamed "Dalek", on 2011.05.26. This is approximately the burn time that the vehicle will have in free flight.

This represents around 180,000 lb*s of total impulse, near the upper end of what the FAA defines as a Class 3 Amateur Rocket. In the letter scale used in small rockets, it would be a 'T'.

The engine runs on liquid oxygen and denatured ethanol. This rocket will be flying payloads for the Nasa Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research program, aka CRuSR.

Caption with above video:

A hover test of the Armadillo Aerospace Supermod rocket, shot in fantastic 3D. The test was on June 4 2011 at the Armadillo shop in Caddo Mills, TX.

Why is the engine pulsing? It's a very large engine for the weight of the vehicle, and ...Read More

RFP for Flight and Integration Services released

Update: Q&A on the draft RFP and Responses to Questions (RTQ) to the final RFP are now available.

We've released the RFP for Flight and Payload Integration Services today. The proposal due date is June 24, 2011. See our Press Release and read about the details in the Modification 02 released today. The original synopsis with links to the modifications and solicitation document is available here.

Update to AFO

Today we have posted an update to the continuously open Announcement of Flight Opportunities (AFO) for payloads to fly on parabolic and suborbital reusable launch vehicles. The new flight opportunities are listed in the AFO update and under Open Opportunities. Cut off date for proposal evaluation is June 28, 2011.

Use the revised Announcement of Flight Opportunities (Feb 9, 2011) in combination with today's update to prepare your proposal.

Modification update to RFP synopsis

Yesterday we posted a modification update to the RFP synopsis for 'Flight and Payload Integration Services for Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles':

This is a modification to the synopsis entitled FLIGHT AND PAYLOAD INTEGRATION SERVICES FOR SUBORBITAL REUSABLE LAUNCH VEHICLES NND11373737R which was posted on April 26, 2011. 

NASA/DFRC plans to issue a Request for Proposal (RFP) for the following Commercial items/services: FLIGHT AND PAYLOAD INTEGRATION SERVICES FOR SUBORBITAL REUSABLE LAUNCH VEHICLES in support of the Office of Chief Technologist (OCT) Program. The NAICS Code and Size Standard are 541712 and 1,000 employees, respectively. The anticipated release date of RFP NND11373737R is on or about May 24, 2011 with an anticipated proposal due date of on or about June 24, 2011. 

All responsible sources may submit a proposal which shall be considered by the agency. NASA Clause 1852.215-84, Ombudsman, is applicable. The installation Ombudsman is Patrick Stoliker Patrick.C.Stoliker@nasa.gov (661)276-2706 Fax: (661)276-2298 NASA-DFRC P.O.Box 273, Mailstop D-2004 Edwards, CA 93521-0273 

See the Modification 01 for more information.

Xaero tether flight test (May 12, 2011)

Masten Space Systems has been testing their Xaero vehicle:

Here is a glimpse of our tethered test sequence. With the tied down (or tied up) tests completed, this is the next step in qualifying our Xaero rocket vehicle for flight. In addition to testing the various aspects of the hardware and shaking out bugs in the software, we are also refining our crew operations. Today (05.12.11) we completed 3 tethered flights. Yesterday, we ran 5 tethered flights. It shouldn't be long before the chains come off and the free flights begin. Stay tuned for more updates.

NASA Selects First Payloads For Upcoming Reduced-Gravity Flights

The following Press Release was just issued by NASA:

WASHINGTON -- NASA has selected 16 payloads for flights on the commercial Zero-G parabolic aircraft and two suborbital reusable launch vehicles as part of the agency's Flight Opportunities Program. The flights provide opportunities for space technologies to be demonstrated and validated in relevant environments. In addition, these flights foster the development of the nation's commercial reusable suborbital transportation industry.

The payloads and teams from ten states and the District of Columbia were selected from applications received in response to a NASA call issued last December. Of the payloads, 12 will ride on parabolic aircraft flights; two on suborbital reusable launch vehicle test flights; and two on both platforms. 

 "Through our Flight Opportunities Program, NASA is able to align research and technology payloads with commercially-available flights to mature technologies that will benefit America's future in space," said Bobby Braun, NASA chief technologist at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "This program allows researchers, technologists and innovators to help NASA meet our future mission needs while infusing new knowledge and capabilities into our nation's universities, laboratories and space industry."

The commercial Zero-G aircraft payloads will fly during a weeklong campaign from Houston ...Read More

Draft RFP released for 'Flight and Payload Integration Services for Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles'

Yesterday we released the draft Request for Proposals (RFP) for 'Flight and Payload integration Services for Suborbital Reusable Launch Vehicles'. The purpose of releasing the draft RFP is for information and planning purposes and to allow industry the opportunity to verify reasonableness and feasibility of the requirement, as well as promote competition. Prospective offerors are invited to submit written comments or questions to Andrea Basham no later than May 13, 2011. More information can be found in the Presolicitation Synopsis.

Some key target dates for the procurement of Flight and Payload Integration Services as listed in the draft RFP are: 

April 26, 2011: Draft RFP Release Date
May 13, 2011: Questions about draft RFP due

Target dates
May 20, 2011: RFP Release Date
June 20, 2011: Proposal Due Date
Aug 22, 2011: Selection/Award Date
Sep 08, 2011: Award Date

2010 FAST Flight Week video

Below video shows a compilation of the various experiments flown during the 2010 FAST Parabolic Flight Week. The next upcoming Parabolic Flight Week will take place in the week of July 18, 2011.

Returning from a successful NSRC-2011

We’ve just returned from the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference 2011 in Orlando, Florida where we’ve had many fruitful discussions with both researchers interested in flying payloads and flight providers interested in offering their platforms through our program. The conference was well attended (close to 400 registered participants) with many sessions covering a wide range of topics.

Flight Opportunities Program workshop
We gathered useful feedback during our Flight Opportunities Program workshop which we will use to refine our program development. During the workshop we also demo’ed our new website (yep, this one) and released a comparison table of the different platforms based on the May 2010 public RFI responses.

Plenary session on REM Payload Specialists – Flight Training, Roles & Responsibilities.
Plenary session on REM Payload Specialists – Flight Training, Roles & Responsibilities.

Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace asking a question to the panel.
Neil Milburn of Armadillo Aerospace asking a question to the panel.

Douglas “Dougal” Maclise (Flight Opportunities Program Payload Manager) in conversation with the panel.
Douglas “Dougal” Maclise (Flight Opportunities Program Payload Manager) in conversation with the panel.

Flight Opportunities Program exhibit
At our Flight Opportunities Program exhibit table this year we had the two payload racks on display which we developed for the developmental flights coming up with Masten’s Xaero platform and Armadillo’s Super Mod. One of the racks showed our current flight configuration with the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor ...Read More

Successful fit & function test

Successful fit & function test
Fresh snow on the ground and surrounding hills greeted us when we arrived.

UPDATE: A video of the fit & function test is available here

Written by Dougal Maclise, Flight Opportunities Payload Manager

 The Flight Opportunities – CRuSR team passed an important milestone early January (4-5-6 January) when we completed the fit and function test of the two payloads (ADS-B and SFEM) in the Masten Space Systems vehicle, Xaero.

 Bruce Webbon, the payload manager for the CRuSR developmental test flights, brought the ADS-B and SFEM payloads along with their development teams down to the Mojave Air and Space Port where the Masten facilities are located for testing with the Xaero vehicle prior to the first test flight.

 The big issues to be resolved during these fit and function tests were would everything fit in the payload canister of the Xaero vehicle and would any of the payloads interfere with the operation of the vehicle avionics. The main concern was electro-magnetic interference (EMI) between the ADS-B and the vehicle GPS system.

Karolyn Ronzano programming the Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor (SFEM) payload prior to the test.

 Karolyn Ronzano, from the small satellite group at Ames, leads a team that has developed the SFEM or ...Read More

Modification to the Announcement of Opportunity released

We've published an updated Announcement of Opportunity (AO) today. The following changes are made:
1) This is an update to the Announcement, and it extends the response cut-off date for the current flight opportunities to February 23, 2011. Responders who have turned in their proposals prior to this modification are encouraged to review this update, and may submit revisions as appropriate.
2) The due date for responses is extended.
Please find the revised AO at the same location as before: http://prod.nais.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/eps/sol.cgi?acqid=144805#Other%2001

NSRC-2011 Suborbital Meeting Will Be Jam Packed

From our colleagues at the NSRC-2011:

2011’s Next-Generation Suborbital Conference (NSRC-2011), to be held in Orlando, Florida 28 February through 2 March, is less than a month away!

NSRC-2011 promises to be a watershed gathering for researchers, educators, and industry/government. Over 120 presenters—a 50% increase over 2010—will discuss everything from flight test progress to planned experiments in 7 different research fields to training and roles for research and educator payload specialists. In total, the meeting will feature 20 sessions, 4 discussion panels, a press conference, presentations or booths by over 20 sponsors, and a public night.

Featured speakers you will have a chance to meet include:
- Dr. Bobby Braun, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Technology
- Mr. Jeff Greason, CEO of XCOR Aerospace
- Mr. David McBride, Center Director at NASA Dryden where the program is based
- Dr. Leland Melvin, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Education
- Dr. George Nield, FAA’s Associate Administrator for Space
- Dr. Pete Worden, Center Director at NASA Ames, where CRuSR’s payload effort is based.

Additionally, a public night presentation by George Whitesides, CEO and President of Virgin Galactic is planned. NSRC-2011 is the place to be to learn how to marry your ...Read More

NASA Dryden Hosts Flight Opportunities Industry Day

Michelle Murray of the FAA's Commercial Space Transportation office addresses representatives of aerospace firms during a Flight Opportunities Program Industry Day at NASA Dryden Jan. 25. (NASA photo / Tom Tschida)

Representatives of more than 20 aerospace firms both large and small met with officials of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center Jan. 25 during an Industry Day meeting for potential providers of sub-orbital reusable launch vehicle and payload integration services.

Discussions focused on NASA's interest in acquiring commercial flight and payload integration services for NASA-provided technology payloads on sub-orbital reusable space launch vehicles, as reflected in a recent NASA Request For Information submitted to potential commercial providers.

During the morning sessions, Steve Meier, director of the Cross-Cutting Demonstrations Division of NASA's Office of Chief Technologist, stressed the partnership approach that NASA is seeking with commercial launch vehicle firms, while Michelle Murray of the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation outlined the FAA's licensing and commercial launch approval process.

During the afternoon, representatives of sub-orbital space-access vehicle firms and those representing payload-integration providers discussed their respective relationships, followed by one-on-one private meetings with NASA Flight Opportunities Program officials ...Read More

Industry meeting for sRLV and payload integration service providers - Tuesday January 25th

The Flight Opportunities Program will hold an Industry Meeting at the Dryden Flight Research Center on January 25, 2011, to discuss the subject RFI for 'Flight and Payload Integration Services' and potential future solicitation for flight and payload integration services. There will be opportunity for participants to hold private, one-on-one discussions with the Program.

Goals of the Industry Meeting

The goals of this meeting are to:
(1) familiarize participants with Program’s interest in acquiring commercial flight and integration services to fly Program-provided technology payloads;
(2) promote understanding of prevailing market conditions in procuring those services;
(3) facilitate a discussion between potential providers and the Program on potential service delivery;
(4) to facilitate a discussion between the potential providers and the FAA on the commercial launch approval process.

Meeting Agenda

0700-0800: Check-In / Sign-up for One-on-One Session, if required
0800-0815: Opening Remarks—David McBride, DFRC Center Director
0815-0830: Remarks from OCT—Dr. Steve Meier, Director CCD Division
0830-0915: Flight Opportunities Overview & Acquisition Process
0915-0945: Summary of Payload Opportunities
0945-1000: Break
1000-1100: FAA AST Licensing Overview
1100-1200: Lunch
1200-1300: Flight Service Provider-to-Integrator Relationship (open discussion)
1300-1400: Open Q&A
1400-1700: One-on-one’s (as required)


Participants must register for the Industry Meeting ...Read More

Modification 02 to Requestion For Information posted online

We've posted an update to the RFI for 'Flight and Payload Integration Services' yesterday. This Modification 02 covers the following updates:
1) Due date for RFI responses is extended to January 21, 2011.
2) A first Question & Answers document following the publication of the RFI late December is posted (see the Q&As below).
3) Flight Opportunities industry meeting information and agenda is posted (see this separate blogpost).

Questions and Answers (Modification 02, Jan 19 2011)

Question 1. Will responses to this RFI be posted for public viewing on any NASA websites?
Answer 1. We do not intend to publish the responses to this particular RFI.

Question 2. I have two different vehicles I would like to submit information on. Can I send two separate submissions?
Answer 2. Please just submit one RFI response that includes a discussion on both vehicles.

Question 3. Will the program open up to new platforms in the future (other than parabolic aircraft and sRLV)?
Answer 3. Flight Opportunities Program is interested in various platforms that can offer unique environments for technology payloads. We encourage you to respond to our Request for Information.

NSRC2011 draft program available

The NSRC2011 draft program for the upcoming Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference has been published. The Flight Opportunities Program will host a CRuSR workshop on Tuesday March 1st from 7:00-10:00pm. More information will be shared here as we move closer to finalizing the workshop program.

Reusable Launch Vehicles Licensing Workshop

FAA's Office of Commercial Space Transportation is organizing a Reusable Launch Vehicle Licensing Workshop
When: January 26, 2011 from 9:00 am – 4:30 pm
Where: Mojave Air & Space Port Conference Room
RSVP by Jan 21 to Michelle.Murray [at] faa.gov

Successful first static test firing of Masten's engine XA-0.1-E2 "Brutus"

(via RLV News)

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