NASA's Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR
) has awarded a total of approximately $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace of Rockwall, Texas and Masten Space Systems of Mojave, Calif. The awards will allow the two companies to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space.
The flights will demonstrate the capabilities of new vehicles to provide recoverable launch and testing of small payloads going to "near-space," the region of Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. The CRuSR program fosters the development of commercial reusable transportation to near space. The overall goal of the program is regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads.
"These two awards are just the beginning of an innovative teaming relationship with industry to provide affordable access to the edge of space while evaluating the microgravity environment for future science and technology experiments," said NASA Chief Technologist Bobby Braun at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "CRuSR represents the sort of government-commercial partnership that will facilitate near-space access at affordable costs."
The CRuSR awards will fund two flights this fall and one this winter of Armadillo's Super-Mod vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico. The first two flights will be to an altitude of approximately nine miles and the third to approximately 25 miles.
The Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle will make four flights this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two flights will reach an altitude of approximately three miles and two others will be to approximately 18 miles, with an engine shutdown during flight.
Both launch vehicles will be modified to mount three antennas for the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) payload. ADS-B-equipped vehicles can determine their position using global navigation satellite systems. The vehicles can periodically broadcast position data and other relevant information to ground stations and other similarly equipped aircraft.
In NASA's fiscal 2011 Space Technology Program, CRuSR will become an integral part of the Flight Opportunities Program within the Office of the Chief Technologist.