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Mixed Messages From NASA on Parabolic Flight Commercialization

By Keith Cowing
NASA Watch
December 6, 2008

Editor’s note: According to a Twitter posting Peter Diamandis “Mike Griffin announced that NASA is moving 100% of their parabolic flights from the C9 to our 727″. This is a very smart move by Mike Griffin and NASA and is also very good news for space commercialization.

Alas, not everyone has gotten that message at JSC it would seem. There is a confusing solicitation notice “NASA JSC Solicitation: DC-9 Flight Training” that was released on 5 December 2008 from JSC which states “The Aircraft Operations Division (AOD) currently uses a DC-9 aircraft to support the Reduced Gravity Program at the Johnson Space Center. The members of the Division’s aircrew, who fly the DC-9, have all completed the required DC-9 initial transition training. The objective is to acquire DC-9 aircrew refresher training. This training shall thoroughly cover aircraft systems, operational procedures, normal/abnormal procedures, and systems integration for the DC-9 aircraft.”

Why is JSC seeking to continue DC-9 aircrew proficiency for parabolic flights if Mike Griffin is moving provision of these flights to a private sector vendor?

NASA Administrator Mike Griffin: Risk and Rewards in Commercial Space

“We have conducted several flight tests with the Zero-G Corporation to determine whether they can meet the requirements for microgravity experiments that are currently performed on the government C-9 aircraft. These test flights included five experiments from small businesses developing technology under the auspices of NASA’s SBIR program. While the tests are not yet complete, project managers are confident that Zero-G can meet NASA’s needs. Thus, we are planning for the transition of all microgravity flight activities from the NASA C-9 to the commercial aircraft, while the C-9 continues to support Space Shuttle operations and acts as a backstop for the commercial microgravity service if necessary.”

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