The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognizes the advancement of the commercial suborbital spaceflight industry and requests information on potential human-tended flight experiments enabled by this capability. NASA's Science Mission Directorate (SMD) is in the formulation phase of a possible new program to fly government-sponsored payloads and researchers on commercial suborbital systems with the intent of advancing SMD's goals and objectives. Responses to this RFI (NNH08ZDA004L) will be used to inform NASA's program planning.
Suborbital missions have provided an important arena for astronomical, terrestrial, and other areas of space research for over 60 years. They offer the opportunity to make astronomical and Earth observations at wavelengths and special observing geometries not accessible from the ground; they also offer the opportunity to study microgravity and other observations related to the fundamental physics of the space and Earth sciences. Routine accomplishments range, for example, from in-situ sampling of atmospheric regions that neither spacecraft nor aircraft can reach, to examining physical phenomena (e.g., relevant to planetary accretion) in microgravity conditions that are not attainable on the ground or available for such long periods in zero-g aircraft, to testing science instruments before committing to orbital or interplanetary flight.
The emergence of human suborbital flight for commercial purposes now offers a natural and timely opportunity to open a new research venue to the scientific community.
In this RFI, NASA is soliciting ideas and comments from the science and research communities on potential human-tended suborbital investigations that support NASA's science goals. With input from responses to this RFI, NASA intends to (i) consider acquiring commercial suborbital seats and flights for NASA-funded researchers to conduct human-tended suborbital investigations and (ii) consider a NASA Research Announcement (e.g., via an amendment to Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Science (ROSES) 2008) to solicit proposals for human-tended suborbital investigations that address any of SMD's research disciplines (Astrophysics, Earth Science, Heliophysics, and Planetary Science). For an overview of SMD research focus areas, refer to The Science Plan for NASA's Science Mission Directorate (2007-2016), available at http://science.hq.nasa.gov/strategy/.
It is NASA's current intent to evaluate a formal solicitation for suborbital spaceflight services in early 2009, which would lead to a pilot program of suborbital flight operations in 2010-2011.
Material in an RFI response is confidential, nonbinding on the respondent, and will be used by NASA for information and planning purposes only. This RFI is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government nor will the Government pay for information solicited. No proposals will be awarded funding as a result of this RFI.
Instructions for Response:
The response to this RFI will be in the form of a PDF document that is uploaded through NASA's NSPIRES system. The response should not exceed three pages in length. NASA is soliciting information that might be used by NASA to facilitate planning for science utilization of the ISS. Material in a RFI response is confidential, nonbinding on the respondent, and will be used by NASA for information and planning purposes only. This RFI is not to be construed as a commitment by the Government nor will the Government pay for information solicited. No proposals will be awarded funding as a result of this RFI. The complete RFI including background, requested information, and instructions for responding may be found at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/ (select "Solicitations" then "Open Solicitations" then "Request for Information (NNH08ZDA004L): Scientist Participant Suborbital Science Pilot Program - Flight Research ").
Responses to this RFI must be submitted no later than March 28, 2008. Companion RFI:
NASA is also releasing a companion RFI, Scientist Participant Suborbital Science Pilot Program - Service Providers (NNH08ZDA003L). In the Service Providers RFI, SMD is requesting technical and programmatic input that will be valuable to NASA to (i) evaluate procuring flight services and (ii) aid potential science investigators in scoping and designing possible future suborbital investigations. The complete service provider RFI including background, requested information, and instructions for responding may be found at http://nspires.nasaprs.com/ (select "Solicitations" then "Open Solicitations" then "Request for Information (NNH08ZDA003L): Scientist Participant Suborbital Science Pilot Program - Service Providers")
For further information on the Scientist Participant Suborbital Science pilot program, please contact Dr. Daniel D. Durda, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC 20546; email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For further information on NASA's Science programs and programmatic matters, please contact Dr. Paul Hertz, Science Mission Directorate, NASA, Washington, DC 20546; email at email@example.com.
Please follow Astrobiology on Twitter.