Session 5-B

Developing Research and Education Payloads to Fly with the Emerging Commercial Sub-orbital Spaceflight Industry

Thursday, November 3, 2:40 - 3:30 PM

Speaker(s): Steven H. Collicott

Several new U.S. spaceflight companies that are pursuing reusable rocket vehicles for commercial sub-orbital spaceflight are creating exciting new research and educational space flight opportunities.  For example, Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems, Virgin Galactic, XCOR Aerospace, and Exos Aerospace Systems & Technologies are developing new sub-orbital rockets for both human-tended experiments and automated experiments. 

As of July 2016, Masten has flown many hundreds of low altitude flights for Entry, Descent, and Landing (EDL) research. Blue Origin has flown to 100km altitude and landed the same rocket and capsule four times, including two flights with science payloads on board. Virgin Galactic recently rolled out their second spaceship and flight test is approaching. Exos is advancing the legacy of Armadillo towards flight this fall.

Whether the vehicle is a large, multi-person tourist one or a smaller, uninhabited rocket purely flying payloads, these new vehicles deliver radically affordable new spaceflight opportunities for many types of payloads. Researchers can now buy access to space for a few percent of traditional government sounding rockets. K-12 educators can now purchase space for a small payload for less money than schools all over the country spend on football uniforms.

This presentation by a leader in the emerging commercial sub-orbital spaceflight industry highlights activities that blaze the trail for researchers and educators to follow—using examples from Blue Origin flight, NASA programs, and even a second grade experiment to determine if fireflies can light up in the weightlessness of spaceflight.