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Virgin to fly research scientists into space

KABC-TV covers Los Angeles and Southern California.

February 28, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Virgin Galactic LLC announced Monday commercial contracts to fly scientists into space to conduct research.

Virgin Galactic, dubbed "the world's first commercial spaceline" by the company, says the agreement with Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) is the first to fly scientists into space for the purpose of research.

Space flight is considered more than 328,000 feet above Earth, more than 100 kilometers.

Two researchers have been contracted by SwRI to perform experiments in space, and six more seats were intended to be procured, for a total value of $1.6 million, according to Virgin Galactic.

Scientists were to perform research on microgravity, biology, climate and astronomy.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is the only crewed suborbital vehicle in flight test today, and the only vehicle based on a spacecraft that has already sent humans into space, the X Prize-winning SpaceShipOne, according to the company.

NASA is developing a program to open research opportunities for scientists to perform research on suborbital vehicles through its Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Flight Opportunities program.