The Flight Opportunities Program (FOP) has conducted three Workshops designed to introduce our flight opportunities for research payloads at annual Next-gen Suborbital Research Conferences in 2010, 2011, and 2012 and a one-day Workshop at Goddard Space Research Center in Fall 2011.
We recently completed a Workshop at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) hosted by Tom Cwik, Manager of the JPL NASA Technology Program Office and coordinated by Ross Jones, the Program Office Lead for Suborbital Research. Richard Mains, the FOP Technology Liaison coordinated the FOP team’s presentation and Ross Jones coordinated presentations by several JPL staff interested in discussing options for participating with the Flight Opportunities Program by flying technology-focused research payloads.
After Tom welcomed the attendees, Richard presented an overview of the FOP program, its flight platforms and payloads with support from the FOP team. Team members included John Kelly (FOP Program Manager) and Mark Collard (Flight Platforms Manager), both from NASA/DRFC, and Dougal Maclise (Payloads Manager), along with Richard Mains (Technology Liaison), from NASA/ARC. The half-day Workshop format was informal and kept open to questions from JPL attendees and the FOP team throughout. The FOP profiled the payload accommodations for five of eight commercial flight platforms which it has on contract. A brief status was provided for the five companies with available platforms:
- NASA Reduced Gravity Office (JSC) conducts parabolic aircraft flights with Zero-G Corp (Ellington AFB, Houston, TX)
- Masten Space Systems (Mojave Air & Spaceport, CA)
- Near Space Corp (Tillamook, OR)
- UP Aerospace (Spaceport America, NM)
- Virgin Galactic (Spaceport America, NM)
Several JPL research staff gave presentations on their technology research areas and how they might utilize FOP capabilities.
- Steve Unwin – Astrophysics: Suborbital Applications in Astronomy & Astrophysics. Suborbital flights to near-space could be valuable for micro-g research on cubesat elements needed for a future orbital constellation. Hi-altitude balloon flights for UV detector testing would provide benefits.
- Kevin Baines – Planetary Science: Planetary Science from a Balloon-based Stratospheric Observatory. Balloon flights are attractive for testing new technologies such as an image stabilization system critical for obtaining essential resolution for certain measurements in visible wavelengths.
- Tony Freeman – Earth Science: Developing Technology for the Next Generation of Earth Science Observations. The JPL Earth Science Advanced Technology Component (ATC) project has many instruments that could benefit from suborbital testing with both airborne and spaceborne applications.
- Andrew Johnson – Planetary Entry, Descent & Landing Technology: “Ground, Navigation & Control Hardware and Testbed Development” (presentation considered proprietary). Suborbital vehicles useful for testing closed loop guidance navigation and control systems including sensing, algorithms and processing.
- Paulett Liewer – Heliophysics: Heliophysics & Rockets. We study solar activity/variability and related effects throughout the solar system and beyond, but especially effects on Earth and our technology sustainability. Testing of magnetometer, optic filter and particle detector of interest.
The Program intends to build and stay linked to NASA Center Space Technology Program offices via their special contacts such as Richard Jones. We also have such a contact at GSRC and will expand that network soon and also beyond NASA. We will soon test our ability to provide updates via webcasts on FOP research payload accommodation capabilities as they evolve. We want to provide webcast interactivity and a live platform for researchers to present payload concepts that FOP can, with its flight platform providers, work to fly early and often. So, please stay tuned to our site.
Written by Richard Mains, Flight Opportunities Technology Liaison