Scientists to go Suborbital for Research

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight. Credit: Virgin Galactic

Think again if you believe the suborbital space market is exclusively for well-heeled tourists. The Southwest Research Institute has just inked deals with Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace to fly up to 17 scientific research flights. Three scientists, including Dr. Alan Stern, former head of the Science Mission Directorate at NASA and current New Horizons Principal Investigator, will become some of the first scientists to fly on a commercial spacecraft to conduct scientific research. They will fly on board Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo and XCOR’s Lynx.

“We’re another step closer to the era of routine ‘field work’ in space research,” said Dr. Dan Durda, another SwRI scientist who is scheduled to fly. “More and more researchers will soon fly with their own experiments in space, and do it regularly enough to allow the important advances that come with iterative investigations. I’m looking forward to that future and helping it become a reality.”

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