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NASA plans to use private spacecraft for crewed suborbital flights

It's expanding its use of commercial space vehicles.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 23, 2020
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Illustration of the Sun rising over the Earth, as seen from space. The moon is seen off to the left. On the dark side of the Earth, cities can be seen illuminating the night.
MARK GARLICK/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY via Getty Images

NASA’s private spaceflight plans extend well beyond launching people into orbit. The agency is forming a plan to fly astronauts, investigators and other staff aboard suborbital spacecraft. Once a Suborbital Crew office inside the Commercial Crew Program has qualified a suborbital system as safe to use, NASA will buy seats aboard suborbital flights for various missions.

The administration is exploring these flights for the same reasons it has embraced commercial spaceflight in the first place: this is theoretically “more accessible, affordable, and available” than conventional government operations. At the least, it would save NASA from building the vehicles themselves.

This comes just a day after Virgin Galactic signed a deal with NASA to ferry private citizens to the ISS and makes clear just how aggressively the organization is pursuing private spaceflight. It wants commercial use at virtually every level, even for brief hops like these.

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