NASA Exploring Possibilities to Fly Astronauts on Commercial Suborbital Vehicles

NASA Exploring Possibilities to Fly Astronauts on Commercial Suborbital Vehicles

NASA is starting a certification process to allow its astronauts to fly on commercial suborbital spacecrafts. The final solicitation will, for the very first time, permit researchers to propose “human-tended” payloads on commercial suborbital vehicles just as many researchers have long been seeking this capability to be able to fly experiments, and themselves, on those vehicles

Fremont, CA: NASA is beginning a certification process to allow its astronauts to fly on commercial suborbital spacecrafts as the agency is now allowing researchers to fly with experiments on such vehicles.

On February 28, a call for proposals for its Flight Opportunities program has been issued by NASA, seeking payloads that could be flown on suborbital vehicles. With the issue of a draft version in January, the final solicitation will, for the very first time, permit researchers to propose “human-tended” payloads on commercial suborbital vehicles just as many researchers have long been seeking this capability to be able to fly experiments, and themselves, on those vehicles.

Jim Reuter, NASA associate administrator for space technology, stated at a February 28 meeting of the Lunar Surface Innovation Consortium at the Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, “With the expansion of suborbitals and where they’re going, we are for the first time allowing for the potential for human spaceflight participants on those missions. We’re not doing that for the sake of having human spaceflight, but if it helps the researcher, we’re accommodating it.”

The solicitation stated that both NASA employees and agency contractors cannot be spaceflight participants on Flight Opportunities-funded missions. Others, such as those employed by other companies or universities, can fly only if they are informed of the risks of flying on such vehicles and give consents to accepting that risk. 

NASA, however, is considering possible ways to allow agency employees, including astronauts, to fly on such vehicles. In that respect, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a March 2 speech at the Next-Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference, “There is an interest in NASA, especially from its administrator, to not just do human-tended payloads, but what we would call crew-tended payloads. In other words, NASA astronauts themselves would fly with equipment and fly with payloads.”

Any work regarding certification would be done by NASA’s Human Explorations and Operations Mission Directorate, which includes human spaceflight, and not the Space Technology Mission Directorate, which runs the Flight Opportunities program. That effort would likely begin by taking standards and requirements from the commercial crew program as well as adapting them for suborbital vehicles.

See Also :- Top Space Technology Companies

 

Weekly Brief