Southwest Research Institute and XCOR Sign First Ever
Commercial Reusable Suborbital Vehicle Scientific Flight Contract
February 24th, 2011, Mojave, CA, USA: In a first for the reusable suborbital launch vehicle industry, XCOR Aerospace announced today that the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a commercial entity, has purchased six suborbital flights to carry SwRI experiments and payload specialists. This is the first such contract SwRI has issued, and XCOR is proud to be chosen for this opportunity.
“When someone issues a commercial contract with their own money, it really means something,” said XCOR Chief Operating Officer Andrew Nelson. “XCOR feels SwRI signing their first contract with us demonstrates the superiority of the Lynx platform over others in the field. We have the ability to fly up to four times a day, quickly perform an experiment and then return it to the customer. In addition, we offer the best price in class versus the competition.”
Each of the six flights will include a SwRI trained principal investigator / payload specialist. This group of talented individuals includes Dr. Alan Stern, former NASA Associate Administrator for Science, Dr. Dan Durda who has flown research missions in NASA f-18s and Dr. Cathy Olkin, an experienced SwRI researcher and former NASA astronaut candidate. On these flights, the SwRI payload specialists will perform research using biomedical, microgravity, and astronomy imaging experiments conceived and prepared for flight at SwRI. SwRI has an option to purchase three additional flights at any time, providing more value significant flexibility for experimental research.
“These are exciting times for the suborbital research field,” said Dr. Stern. “XCOR and SwRI are blazing a pioneering trail with this engagement and setting the stage for others to follow with their experiments.”
The capabilities of the Lynx, in particular its responsiveness and low cost of operation provide SwRI and other clients with an unprecedented ability for quick turnaround of key experiments or precious and sensitive samples. Lynx operations will allow customer experiments to go from a runway-side storage facility to the vehicle, then fly to space on a customized flight trajectory and back to an airport-side laboratory in under 30 minutes. The Lynx offers a level of sample security and assurance not found in other suborbital systems today, while the cost of a Lynx operation is an order of magnitude less than traditional sounding rocket systems.
The Lynx suborbital vehicle is also a robust data collection system with four distinct payload carrying opportunities as either primary or secondary payloads, with locations within the pressurized Lynx cabin or externally exposed to the vacuum of space and the thin air of the upper atmosphere. Payload mass can range from under 1 kg to over 650 kg.
“SwRI is a recognized leader in the field,” said Jeff Greason, XCOR Chief Executive Officer. “They are one of the best research firms in the world for space science and engineering, and their researchers have a phenomenal ability to explore innovative concepts. I look forward to the pioneering work this partnership will achieve.”
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XCOR Aerospace is a California corporation located in Mojave, California. The company is in the business of developing and producing safer, more reliable and reusable rocket powered vehicles, propulsion systems, advanced non-flammable composites and other enabling technologies. XCOR is working with aerospace prime contractors and government customers on major propulsion systems, and concurrently building the Lynx, a piloted, two-seat, fully reusable, liquid rocket powered vehicle that takes off and lands horizontally, and serves three primary missions: nano-satellite launch, research & scientific missions, and private spaceflight. The Lynx production models (designated Lynx Mark II) are designed to be robust, multi-mission commercial vehicles capable of flying to 100+ km in altitude up to four times per day and are being offered on a wet lease basis. (www.xcor.com).
Southwest Research Institute is an independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization using multidisciplinary approaches to problem solving. SwRI occupies more than 1,200 acres and provides more than 2 million square feet of laboratories, test facilities, workshops and offices for more than 3,000 employees who perform contract work for government and industry clients. In support of one its largest programs, SwRI researchers working from San Antonio and Boulder, Colo., lead an array of space science projects, including the development of scientific payloads for satellites and sounding rockets, the design and management of complex hardware and data systems, and the study of solar system and astrophysical objects.
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