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SpaceShipTwo to carry technology payloads to space

SpaceShipTwo. Photo: Virgin Galactic

LONDON (BNS): NASA has selected Virgin Galactic, the world's first commercial spaceline, to provide the Space Agency with up to three charter flights on SpaceShipTwo.

The agreement calls for NASA to charter a full flight from Virgin Galactic and includes options for two additional charter flights. If all options are exercised, the contract value is $4.5 million.

This arrangement will dramatically increase the access researchers currently have to space and each mission will allow up to 1300 lbs of scientific experiments, which could enable up to 600 experimental payloads per flight.

Virgin Galactic will provide a Flight Test Engineer on every flight to monitor and interact with experiments as necessary, a capability that has never before been available on suborbital vehicles.

If requested, these experiments can be quickly accessed after landing, a feature critical to many types of experiments, the company said.

Although generally referred to as a space tourism company,Virgin Galactic has already collected more than $58 million in deposits from 455 future tourist astronauts,providing access to space to researchers.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is the only crewed suborbital vehicle in flight test today, and the only such vehicle based on a commercial spacecraft that has already sent humans into space, the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne.

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