NASA announced on Monday that it has awarded four American suborbital space companies to carry payloads to the “boundary of space.”
According to NASA, each of the four selected companies will receive an “indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for integration and flight services.” The contracts are worth a minimum of $100,000, have a duration of three years and include two year extension options.
The four companies selected for the contracts are:
Virgin Galactic, which is best known for developing its space tourism business with its SpaceShipTwo craft. However, in addition to carrying passengers, the company is also actively working to offer the use SpaceShipTwo for scientific research. The company is also developing LauncherOne, which will aim to deliver small satellites into orbit.
Masten Space Systems, which is working to develop vertical takeoff, vertical landing unmanned spacecraft. The company is probably most famous for winning the $1 million Lunar Lander X-Prize in 2009. It was also recently awarded a contract from DARPA to work on developing a reusable spaceplane.
UP Aerospace, which focuses on developing suborbital rockets for the delivery of research payloads. The company most recently launched a suborbital rocket for NASA in November of 2013, and its next launch is scheduled for October 7, 2014.
Paragon Space Development Corporation, which has developed hardware for over 70 space flight missions. Paragon is partnered with another company, World View Experience, which aims to use balloons to take commercial passengers to the “edge of space” – about 120,000 feet above the surface.
“We’ve made tremendous progress in working toward the goal of regular, frequent and predictable access to near-space at a reasonable cost with easy recovery of intact payloads,” NASA’s Michael Gazarik said in a press release. “These proven flight service providers will allow for payloads from organizations including NASA, industry, academia, and other government agencies to be tested on flights to the edge of space before being committed to demonstration in the harsh environment of space itself.”