A research institution that has inked landmark deals with two private spaceflight firms may be performing experiments in suborbital space within two years, one of its scientists says.
The Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), a non-profit organization based in San Antonio, Tex., bought seats on suborbital flights from both XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic. SwRI's experiments are already built and ready to go, and the institute is now waiting on the spaceflight companies — but that wait may not be terribly long, according to one scientist.
"No one can guarantee when they will finish their flight-test programs, what setbacks they may have, what twists and turns there are along the way," said Alan Stern, vice president of SwRI's space division. "But I think there's a very good chance that we'll be flying a couple of years from now, in early 2013, and potentially somewhat sooner."