NASA Funds Experimental “Near Space” Vehicles


Commercial space companies Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems have been awarded a total of $475,000 to perform test flights of their experimental vehicles near the edge of space. The award is part of NASA’s Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR), which seeks to develop commercial reusable transportation to near space for frequent, low-cost trips to near-space for small 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. “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 (a re-aligned version of their Xoie vehicle for better aerodynamics, according to Colin Ake from Masten) 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.

Near-space is the region of Earth’s atmosphere between 20,000 and 107,000 meters (65,000 and 350,000 feet).

NASA’s proposed budget for FY 2011 has funds for the CRuSR program that will both go to universities and other research institutions to build science and education payloads, as well as being used to purchase flights on commercial suborbital vehicles. However, the total amount available for the program is yet to be determined by Congress.

Source: NASA

6 Replies to “NASA Funds Experimental “Near Space” Vehicles”

  1. Baby steps? So these are R/C rockets designed to demonstrate stability control mechanisms and software at extreme altitudes? Scalable is the key word here! Mars hoppers anyone?

  2. Hummm, Xaero Vehicle, make 4 flights this winter, a rockets to go 18 miles up, I googled it and can’t find any detail or photograph of this vehicle. If it’s going to fly in 3 month there must be some thing there. No? Where did that $475,000 go? I hope NASA didn’t flush that money down the toilet!

  3. Emilio- As I said in the article, I heard from one Masten official that Xaero is Xoie with some changes, and Michael Mealing just told me via Twitter than Xaero has the addition of an aeroshell, and also they’ll be putting out more info on it soon.

  4. I went to the Armadillo Aerospace site and saw several videos, some of which included John Carmack, who is the founder/owner of Armadillo Aerospace. What an interesting fellow HE IS! A regular fountain of information and intelligence! It must be difficult for his staff to keep up with him? He comes off as kind of an ‘Odd John’ type, that is to say genetically advanced far beyond the current time line.

    Short story subject: An alien visitor spends hundreds of years trapped on a planet he’s crash landed on. He has begun developing the necessary materials and technologies to fix his time and space transportation system. He creates great wealth through industrial manipulations while collecting the rare earth materials he requires for his ship. Finally, he introduces computers and their manufacturing to the artificially stimulated economies he’s created. It takes decades for the desired results to evolve, but since his life span covers more than a thousand years, he eventually has the computers he needs to leave the isolated planet he’s been trapped on for so long…

  5. Great Project worth the funding for the future, society families need safety from nuclear weapons guns invasions proof safe homes, and in near space it is possible for good citizens to live free safe from terrorists many not even caught like b laden

  6. more like evolving molecules desperately hoping to improve themselves mostly for greedy egotistical reasons instead of advancing to higher levels, are trying to use computers to control others covet wealth power to enslave labor by mind control numbers upon others

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