Scientists Book Trips Aboard Private Spaceships, In An Industry First

Monday, February 28, 2011 - 16:00 in Astronomy & Space

SpaceShipTwo Courtesy Virgin Galactic The commercial space industry has booked its first science expeditions, the Southwest Research Institute announced today. At least two researchers have tickets to fly on Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, with another six seats on reserve, and the team also reserved six flights on an XCOR Lynx I rocket plane. The Virgin Galactic deal, worth $1.6 million, is the first commercial spaceflight agreement specifically designed for scientists. The researchers will conduct biomedical, microgravity and astronomical imaging experiments, according to SwRI. The SpaceShipTwo expeditions will give researchers ample room to move around and conduct their experiments at up to 350,000 feet. The Lynx I trips will involve a pilot and a single researcher flying at 200,000 feet. "We are strong believers in the transformational power of commercial, next-generation suborbital vehicles to advance many kinds of research," said Alan Stern, SwRI's associate vice president for space science and engineering, in a statement....

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