Virgin Galactic to give NASA suborbital rides

This rendering shows SpaceShipTwo with its tail section in the feathered re-entry position.

Virgin Galactic )

With the shuttle program retired, NASA is turning to Virgin Galactic to hitch rides to the edge of space.

Richard Branson’s private venture, which aims to be the first commercial space carrier, said it has signed a deal to give the agency up to three charter flights on SpaceShipTwo. The contract could be worth as much as $4.5 million.

The space plane, whose assembly hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port was unveiled last month, will carry at least one science mission with a flight test engineer to monitor experiments.

“Each mission allows for up to 1,300 pounds of scientific experiments, which could enable up to 600 experimental payloads per flight,” the company said in a release.

“Providing access to space to researchers and their experiments is viewed by Virgin Galactic as both a future mission segment and a significant business opportunity.”

Based on the Ansari X Prize-winning … [Read more]

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