will spend up to $10 million over the next two years to fly science and engineering payloads to the upper atmosphere and out to the edge of space on reusable commercial vehicles, some of which will also be carrying humans.
Under indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contracts, seven U.S. companies will provide flight services to the agency’s Office of the Chief Technologist as it works to advance new space technologies for future exploration.
“Through this catalog approach,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 Chief Technologist Bobby Braun in announcing the contracts. “The government’s ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation of the new technologies and capabilities needed for NASA’s future missions in space.”
Two of the companies selected —and XCOR Aerospace, both of Mojave, Calif. — are developing piloted spaceplanes designed to carry humans to suborbital space for research and tourism. Two more — Armadillo Aerospace of Heath, Texas, and Up Aerospace Inc., of Highlands Ranch, Colo. — have parachute-recoverable sounding-rocket technology for suborbital experiments. Armadillo also is developing a reusable vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle for research payloads, as is Mojave-based Masten Space Systems, another contract winner.
Under its NASA contract, Near Space Corp. of Tillamook, Ore., will deliver its payloads to the edge of space on high-altitude balloons.
Whittinghill Aerospace, a small company in Camarillo, Calif., has conducted NASA-funded work on a nitrous oxide-fed hybrid launcher for nanosatellites.