Two aerospace companies at the Mojave Air & Space Port have received three-year contracts from NASA to take scientific payloads into sub-orbital space.
The contracts with Master Space Systems and Virgin Galactic will require them to carry experiments and other payloads 62 miles above the earth where work could be conducted for a short period before the payloads fall back to earth.
The contracts, announced late Monday, have a minimum value of $100,000 and include two-year extension options.
NASA Associate Administrator for Space Technology Michael Gazarik said these contracts are evidence of progress toward making regular and frequent access of near-space at a reasonable cost.
“These proven flight service providers will allow for payloads from organizations including NASA, industry, academia, and other government agencies to be tested on flights to the edge of space before being committed to demonstration in the harsh environment of space itself,” Gazarik said in a prepared statement.
Masten was founded in 2004 by Dave Masten, a former tech entrepreneur who develops and builds vertical take-off and landing spacecraft. In 2009, the company won the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge with its Xombie and Xoie spacecraft. Masten’s space vehicles are still in the testing phase with possible research flights taking place next year.
Virgin Galactic is the commercial space company of billionaire Richard Branson that is developing SpaceShipTwo to take paying customers into sub-orbital space, and the LauncherOne rocket to take small satellites into low-earth orbit. Research flights could begin later this year, with the space vehicle taking up paying passengers for sub-orbital flights perhaps next year.
Also receiving the sub-orbital flight services contracts were Paragon Space Development Corp., of Tucson, Ariz. and Up Aerospace Inc., of Highlands Ranch, Colo.