NASA’s Flight Opportunites Program Begins New Round


One of the more innovative smaller efforts underway at NASA is the Flight Opportunities Programs, which offers researchers access to the suborbital and high altitude environment on a variety of platforms. The range of the experiment portfolio is impressive, and it has already hosted a number of experiments which could be important stepping stones on the path to permanent and expanding presence in space. For instance, much has been made recently of the potential for 3-D  printing in fabricating mission components in space or on other planetary bodies.  Deep Space Industries has taken the concept to a new level in proposing that it could use its own Micro Gravity Foundry, a type of 3D printer, to build massive structures out of the raw material taken from asteroids.

While that sort of large scale engineering may be a long way off,  NASA planning to test a 3D printer aboard the International Space Station in 2014.  As part of the validation for its trip to ISS,  a 3D printer built by NewSpace company Made in Space,  has already been tested in brief zero-g during parabolic flights as part of the Flight Opportunities Program.

In addition to the potentially groundbreaking experiments, such as 3D printing in zero-g, being conducted under the Flight Opportunities Program,  it is also serving as an important early customer for several Reusable Launch Vehicles which are pushing the envelope in the effort to reduce the costs of access to space.   Among them are Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two, XCOR Aerospace Lynx, Masten Space Systems Xaero and the Armadillo Aerospace STIG.   Each of those platforms is either currently approved or in the process of approval,  and as the second round of solicitations goes out under the Space Technology Mission Directorate detailed in the press release which follows, new opportunities await.

NASA Press Release

RELEASE : 13-108

NASA Seeks Innovative Suborbital Flight Technology Proposals

WASHINGTON — For a second year, NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate is seeking proposals for suborbital technology payloads and spacecraft capability enhancements that could help revolutionize future space missions.

Selected technologies will travel to the edge of space and back on U.S. commercial suborbital vehicles and platforms, providing opportunities for testing before they are sent to work in the unforgiving environment of space.

The Game Changing Opportunities in Technology Development research announcement seeks proposals for technology payloads, vehicle enhancements, onboard facilities and small spacecraft propulsion technologies that will help the agency advance technology development in the areas of exploration, space operations and other innovative technology areas relevant to NASA’s missions. NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program is sponsoring the solicitation and expects proposals from entrepreneurs, scientists, technologists, instrument builders, research managers, and vehicle builders and operators. This year, NASA has included a topic on small spacecraft propulsion technologies from the agency’s Small Spacecraft Technology Program.

“Investing in transformative technology development is critical to enable NASA’s future missions and benefits the greater American aerospace community,” said James Reuther, deputy associate administrator for programs in NASA’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. “NASA Space Tech’s Game Changing Development and Flight Opportunities Programs are working with our partners from America’s emerging suborbital flight community to foster frequent and predictable commercial access to near-space while allowing for cutting-edge technology development.”

Following development, selected payloads will be made available to NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program for pairing with appropriate commercial suborbital reusable launch service provider flights. In the case of small spacecraft propulsion technologies, there may be the potential for a direct orbital flight opportunity.

“This call will select innovators to develop novel technology payloads that will provide significant improvements over current state-of-the-art systems,” said Stephen Gaddis, Game Changing Development Program manager at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.

Proposals are due June 17 and will be accepted from U.S. or non-U.S. organizations, including NASA centers, other government agencies, federally funded research and development centers, educational institutions, industry and nonprofit organizations.

NASA expects to make as many as 18 awards this summer with the majority of awards ranging in value between approximately $50,000 and $250,000 each. The total combined funding for this announcement is expected to be about $2 million, based on availability of funds.  The Game Changing Opportunities research announcement is available on NASA’s Solicitation and Proposal Integrated Review and Evaluation System website:

Langley manages the Game Changing Development Program, and NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., manages the Flight Opportunities Program for the agency’s Space Technology Mission Directorate. For more information on the Game Changing Development activities and information on this solicitation for payloads, visit:

For more information about NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program, visit:

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