NASA and Virgin Galactic Select Payloads for 1st Space Research Flight Onboard SpaceShipTwo
- 12 Payloads Designed by American Universities, Private Companies, and Federal Labs to fly on NASA-Chartered Virgin Galactic Flight
NASA and Virgin Galactic, the privately-funded spaceline owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, have identified twelve innovative research payloads that will fly to space onboard SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s reusable spacecraft. Each of these payloads was selected by NASA through its Flight Opportunities Program to conduct research during the prolonged microgravity environment experienced on board SpaceShipTwo.
This NASA flight will be the first of its kind for Virgin Galactic. SpaceShipTwo is widely known for its pioneering potential for human spaceflight, but another key function will be enabling new research by offering scientists, engineers, and educators a unique research experience in space. SpaceShipTwo adds an important new research platform by providing a safe, affordable, and high-capacity environment (by volume and by weight) that offers several minutes of high quality microgravity and exposure to outer space and the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
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The twelve payloads are each designed to deliver important and technically rigorous results to researchers at universities and organizations, spanning a diverse range of topics that include biological monitoring, on-orbit propellant storage, and next-generation air traffic control systems. As required by the Flight Opportunities Program, each payload is an engineering experiment designed to advance a field relevant to NASA’s overall technology roadmap.
“Virgin Galactic is thrilled to be working with NASA and researchers at such a range of prestigious institutions, and we look forward to flying these research payloads into space,” said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. “Our vision for Virgin Galactic is to increase access to space, not just for individuals to experience spaceflight, but to advance humanity by driving significant technological advancement and research. We are proud to have NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate as a customer and to be able to facilitate their important work.”
The twelve payloads manifested for testing on the first SpaceShipTwo research flight include:
- Made in Space, Inc., Moffett Field, California, has designed an advanced manufacturing experiment intended to feed the development of future 3D printers customized for use in space.
- The On-Orbit Propellant Storage Stability investigation by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida, continues a microgravity research program to determine stability data for a prototype orbiting fuel depot that could enable future long duration space missions.
- The Electromagnetic Field Measurements payload from John Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Maryland, will characterize the electromagnetic field environment inside the spacecraft. This payload will serve as an integration platform for scientific research and instrument development while providing insight into interference from the spacecraft.
- The Collisions Into Dust Experiment from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, will fire an impactor into simulated regolith to observe the subsequent behavior of the fine particles ejected in microgravity. The knowledge of this behavior can help in understanding future operations on asteroids or low gravity moons for scientific study or resource collection.
- The Validating Telemetric Imaging Hardware for Crew-Assisted and Crew-Autonomous Biological Imaging project from the University of Florida, Gainesville, will test biological fluorescent imaging instrumentation for suborbital applications. Fluorescent protein-based, gene-expression techniques allow direct observation of how biological entities react to the stresses of spaceflight.
- The Variable Radiator demonstration from Texas A&M University, College Station, will test a modulating fluid-based spacecraft thermal energy rejection solution. Fluids behave differently in microgravity; understanding that behavior is critical to the operation of spacecraft radiators and other systems that transfer fluids.
- A Micro Satellite Attitude Control System from the State University of New York, Buffalo, will test the application of a carpal wrist joint to the momentum management and control of small satellites. Use of the wrist joint to articulate a reaction-control gyroscope should enable precision pointing of a small satellite on multiple axes.
- The Saturated Fluid Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator from the University of Colorado, Boulder, is a cryogenic fuel pump system developed by Flometrics, Inc, which can pump fuel without turbo machinery. This potential advancement for in-space and rocket propellant propulsion would reduce the weight, complexity and cost of spacecraft fuel systems.
- The Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) transmitter is an experimental payload sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation and based on aviation equipment designed by MITRE Corp. and modified by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, Florida. ADS-B technology will enable integration of suborbital reusable launch vehicles and stratospheric balloons into the FAA’s next-generation air traffic control system.
- Controlled Dynamics, Inc., Huntington Beach, California, has built a Facility for Microgravity Research and Submicroradian Stabilization that is a prototype system using active vibration suppression to increase the quality of microgravity experienced by an attached payload.
- Ames Research Center’s Suborbital Flight Environment Monitor is a suite of sensors designed to measure the flight accelerations and microgravity quality achieved.
- Johnson Space Center’s Microgravity Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing will assess the sustained microgravity operation of a two-phase flow system with a passive gas and liquid separator. This technology is applicable to a number of space applications including water purification.
Source : Virgin Galactic - view original press release