NASA awards $10 million in contracts to private space firms

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NASA handed out $10 million in contracts this week to seven commercial space companies to boost the space agency’s payloads into the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

It is yet another step by NASA in its course to provide seed money to companies to develop the next step in spaceflight technology.

The winners of the two-year contracts included four California companies: Camarillo-based Whittinghill Aerospace, as well as Masten Space Systems, XCOR Aerospace Inc. and Virgin Galactic -- all three of which are based in Mojave.

NASA was not specific on how much of the $10 million each company will receive, or what exactly they will be lifting into sub-orbit. Rather, NASA said in a statement that ‘the flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency’s research and technology needs.’


Other companies selected were Armadillo Aerospace of Heath, Texas; Near Space Corp. of Tillamook, Ore.; and Up Aerospace Inc. of Highlands Ranch, Colo.

Bobby Braun, NASA’s chief technologist, said in a statement: ‘The government’s ability to open the suborbital research frontier to a broad community of innovators will enable maturation of the new technologies and capabilities needed for NASA’s future missions in space.’


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-- W.J. Hennigan

Video: Masten Space Systems, one of seven companies to receive NASA contracts, tests its Xaero rocket vehicle for flight earlier this year. Credit: Masten Space Systems via YouTube