The space tourism company Virgin Galactic has struck a deal with NASA worth up to $4.5 million for research flights on the company's new private spaceliner SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic officials announced Oct. 13.
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.
"We are excited to be working with NASA to provide the research community with this opportunity to carry out experiments in space, said George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic, in a statement.
"An enormous range of disciplines can benefit from access to space, but historically, such research have been rare and expensive," Whitesides added. "At Virgin Galactic, we are fully dedicated to revolutionizing access to space, both for tourist astronauts and, through programs like this, for researchers."
NASA research flights
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.