NASA's Suborbital Research Flight Program - Blue Origin Joins - Physics-Astronomy.org

NASA's Suborbital Research Flight Program - Blue Origin Joins

ROOMFIELD, Colo. — NASA announced June 2 that it has awarded a contract to Blue Origin to perform suborbital research flights as part of the agency's Flight opportunity program.
Under the indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, Blue Origin will be eligible to fly explore pay loads on its New Shepard suborbital vehicle. The contract has a maximum value of $45 million, although the real value depends on the number of task orders for research flights awarded by NASA.
Blue Origin, which has identified research payloads as one of the key markets for New Shepard, has already been working to attract customers on its own, signing up several "pathfinder" customers who will fly payloads on early test flights. Joining Flight Opportunities, company officials said, opens up another way for those customers to fly on the vehicle. [Photos: Glimpses of Secretive Blue Origin's Private Spaceships]
"It's a great avenue to do science and education research mission payloads on New Shepard," said Brett Alexander, director of strategy and business development at Blue Origin, during an interview at the Next-generation Suborbital Astronomer Conference (NSRC) here, where NASA announced the contract. "This gets us into that pipeline of government-funded flights."
Under Flight Opportunities, individual researchers interested in flying on New Shepard can work directly with the company to submit a proposal for NASA to have that flight funded. Steve Jurczyk, NASA associate administrator for space technology, said at the conference that the program would separately broker flights for payloads developed or sponsored by NASA.
"We're really excited to have them on board and have this capability along with the other flight service providers," Jurczyk said in a speech at the conference announcing the Blue Origin contract.
In the near-term, Alexander said Flight Opportunities payloads would likely be included on the company's ongoing series of test flights of the vehicle. Those flights go to altitudes of 100 kilometers and give three to four minutes of microgravity. Once in commercial service, Blue Origin expects to do dedicated explore flights of New Shepard separate from flights carrying space tourists.
Blue Origin's mainly latest New Shepard test flight took place April 2. Alexander, speaking at the conference earlier in the day, said the up coming test flight of the vehicle would come "in the next short while," but declined to provide a more specific date. That Next  test, he said, would differ from previous ones with a "more aggressive" tilt of the vehicle towards its landing pad, as well as disabling one of the 3 parachutes used to land the vehicle's crew capsule.
NASA's Suborbital Research Flight Program - Blue Origin Joins


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