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NASA’s New Mexico project gets boost from Virgin Galactic

With the construction of a “spaceport” underway in the southern New Mexico town of Upham, NASA has made moves to take advantage of the new flight center by striking a $4.5 million contract agreement with owners Virgin Galactic.

From Fox News:

Under the deal, NASA will charter up to three flights on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, an air-launched spacecraft designed to carry eight people on trips to suborbital space.

[…]

Each suborbital spaceflight for NASA could carry up to 1,300 pounds (590 kilograms) of scientific experiments, allowing up to 600 different payloads per mission, Virgin Galactic officials said.

The company will provide a flight test engineer on every mission to help monitor and conduct experiments as necessary, they added.

In the deal, NASA committed to chartering one flight with Virgin Galactic, with options for two more. If the space agency exercises those options and charters all three flights, the contract will be worth $4.5 million, officials said.

New Mexico is home to several aeronautic and space discovery projects. The National Radio Astronomy Observatory just completed a decade-long renovation that upped its technological capacities; previously, the often-filmed space center relied on technology from the 1970s. The facility is requesting name changes in recognition of its new array of services.

And as reported by The New Mexico Independent previously, two research firms in New Mexico were awarded $4 million to develop technology for a set of NASA’s unammned flight programs.

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