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Research Institute, XCOR Partner on Suborbital Test Flights

Lynx suborbital spacecraft (XCOR Inc.)

Lynx suborbital spacecraft (XCOR Aerospace Inc.)

Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) in San Antonio says it will conduct suborbital space missions with SwRI payload specialist astronauts flying aboard one or two test missions in the XCOR Aerospace Lynx Mark I vehicle. The flights are expected to test capabilities of the Lynx vehicle with actual researchers and research experiments aboard.

About one year ago, SwRI contracted with XCOR to provide payload specialists for six missions to conduct biomedical, microgravity, and astronomical imaging experiments developed at SwRI. This new agreement moves the first of these flights ahead of XCOR’s commercial services to be a part of XCOR’s Lynx test flight program.

XCOR’s Lynx is a reusable launch vehicle, designed as two-seat, piloted spacecraft to take humans and payloads on a half-hour suborbital flight to 100 km (330,000 feet) and then return safely to a landing at the takeoff runway. Lynx resembles am aircraft for horizontal takeoff and horizontal landing, but instead of a jet or piston engine, Lynx uses a reusable rocket propulsion system to depart a runway and return safely. It is not dropped in midair like other commercial space vehicles.

Alan Stern, an associate vice-president at SwRI, leads the payload specialist project. He and co-investigators Daniel Durda and Cathy Olkin trained for suborbital space flight 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 flights under the SwRI and XCOR contract.

“By putting scientists in space with their experiments,” says Stern, “researchers can achieve better results at lower cost, and with a higher probability of success, than with many old-style automated experiments.”

Read more: Institute to Provide On-Board Space Payload Specialists

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