BOULDER, Colo., 6 March 2012. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and XCOR Aerospace officials entered an agreement to conduct suborbital space missions with payload specialist astronauts flying aboard test missions in the XCOR Aerospace Lynx Mark I spacecraft. “By putting scientists in space with their experiments, researchers can achieve better results at lower cost, and with a higher probability of success, than with many old-style automated experiments,” says Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president of SwRI Space Science and Engineering Division. “The effort we’re announcing today with XCOR will put SwRI researchers at the leading edge of this revolutionary new kind of suborbital research.”
Stern and project co-investigators Dr. Daniel Durda and Dr. Cathy Olkin have been training for suborbital spaceflight aboard zero-G aircraft, centrifuges and F-104 jet fighters since 2010. All three researchers are expected to fly and operate suborbital experiments during the six-mission flight sequence under the SwRI and XCOR contract. In 2011, SwRI and XCOR Aerospace signed an agreement for six SwRI suborbital flights aboard Lynx, with options for three more.
“We are very excited to advance the capability to do suborbital research with Lynx by becoming a part of the planned test flight program for this innovative and highly capable new human spaceflight vehicle,” says Stern, who leads the project.
“XCOR is as serious about our research missions as other parts of our Lynx flight manifest, and this effort will help us validate flight procedures using trained test engineers not involved in early operations, much as we did with our X-Racer rocket-powered aircraft program,” says Andrew Nelson, XCOR’s chief operating officer.