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Flight Summaries

Each year, Flight Opportunities supports flight tests of dozens of program-funded technologies on commercial vehicles.

Here you will find highlights of those flights and links to additional information about the tested innovations tested aboard.

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Masten Space Systems? Xombie lander, landing.
Masten Space Systems’ Xombie© lander completes a flight test at the Mojave Spaceport. Xombie© represents NASA-sponsored technologies supported by its Flight Opportunities program.

2023 Flights

December 19, 2023

Suborbital Flight Testing of a Range of Technologies for Space Exploration, Discovery, and Commerce

The 14 technologies aboard the flight aim to address some of the opportunities and obstacles presented by humanity’s sustained presence in space. The flight at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas was also a significant milestone for the company, serving as the return to flight with their New Shepard reusable suborbital rocket.

The payloads reached altitude of 351,248 feet, which exposed them to about three minutes of microgravity. Such flight conditions enabled research teams to collect data that will help them evaluate the performance of their technologies and make any necessary improvements before potential future use in space. The suborbital flight test included a range of technology capabilities for space exploration, discovery, and commerce.

Learn more about this flight about Suborbital Flight Testing of a Range of Technologies for Space Exploration, Discovery, and Commerce
Reusable rocket coming in for a vertical landing, kicking up a plume of dust from the arid ground. The blue sky is full of wispy clouds.
New Shepard’s booster lands on the pad at Blue Origin’s Launch Site One in West Texas on December 19, 2023, after flying payloads supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.
Blue Origin

Technology tested on the above campaign:

September 12-October 4, 2023

Dust Sensor to Aid Lunar Landings

This technology could improve lunar landings by measuring the size and speed of surface particles kicked up by the exhaust from a rocket-powered lander. The payload testing involved a series of four tethered flights on Astrobotic’s Xodiac rocket-powered lander in Mojave, California.

When spacecraft land on the Moon or Mars, the rocket exhaust plume interacts with the surface. This interaction creates regolith ejecta – abrasive dust and large particles moving at high speeds – that can damage the lander and surrounding structures. Understanding how a rocket engine’s exhaust affects this ejecta will help mission designers plan more effectively for lunar landings. Researchers at the University of Central Florida developed an instrument named Ejecta STORM (Sheet Tracking, Opacity, and Regolith Maturity) to answer this need while embracing the Flight Opportunities program’s “fly, fix, fly” ethos to quickly advance the technology. After flight tests in 2020, researchers tested the Ejecta STORM technology’s integration with a lander and operation in flight conditions that simulated the plume effects of a lunar lander.

Learn more about this flight about Dust Sensor to Aid Lunar Landings
University of Central Florida researchers tested an instrument designed to measure the size and speed of surface particles kicked up by the exhaust from a rocket-powered lander on the Moon or Mars. The four tethered flights on Astrobotic’s Xodiac rocket-powered lander took place in Mojave, California, from Sept. 12 through Oct. 4, 2023. Researchers tested the Ejecta STORM technology’s integration with a lander and operation in flight conditions that simulate the plume effects of a lunar lander.
Astrobotic

Technology tested on the above campaign:

September 12-14, 2023

Monitoring the Heating of Lunar Lander Legs to Optimize Performance

Designers of reusable landers must be able to quantify the heating of lander legs and surfaces by rocket engine plumes, hot nozzles, etc. Payloads underwent flight testing aboard Exos Aerospace’s SARGE (suborbital autonomous rocket with guidance) BLK3 platform in Caddo Mills, Texas.

In a series of flight tests, a Purdue University team completed an experiment that tested how rocket plume temperatures heated up a simulated leg of a lunar lander. The campaign demonstrated Purdue’s image-based, whole-field temperature map system in a relevant environment, which will advance and ready the technology for lander development and operations use (e.g., for the design of lander vehicles for Earth-based entry, descent, and landing research flights).

Learn more about accessing flight tests about Monitoring the Heating of Lunar Lander Legs to Optimize Performance
Three people stand at a rig with three angled beams. Left and right beams have equipment attached. Middle vertical beam has a pink/yellow attachment.
The Purdue University team prepares for their Sept. 12-14, 2023, flight test on Exos Aerospace’s SARGE BLK3 platform. The paint shield visible in the center changes colors at different temperatures. Shielded camera mounts are visible on the left and right legs of the testing rig. Before-and-after comparisons plus high-definition video during the test run helps researchers discern the temperature field during testing.
Purdue University 

Technology tested on the above campaign:

August 30, 2023

Exploring Optical Communications in the Stratosphere

Researchers demonstrated an optical communication link from the ground to a high-altitude balloon, flown by Aerostar in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

In an example of other government agencies’ leveraging support and flight provider contracts from Flight Opportunities, Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific successfully demonstrated an optical communication link from the ground to a high-altitude balloon as part of the Stratospheric Optical Link Demonstration (SOLD) project with essential support and collaboration from NASA's Ames Research Center. SOLD is designed to explore optical communications in the stratosphere and demonstrate the supporting capabilities needed to achieve such optical links while also overcoming the challenges of operating in the stratospheric environment.

Learn more about accessing flight tests about Exploring Optical Communications in the Stratosphere
Aerostar balloon on the tarmac at night.
An Aerostar stratospheric balloon carrying the SOLD payload prepares to launch on August 30, 2023.
Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific

Technology tested on the above campaign:

May–July 2023

Space Exploration and Earth Observation Student Experiments Tested in the Stratosphere

Student projects flew for several hours at heights ranging from 70,500 to 96,000 feet, enabling data collection for a variety of experiments. Payloads were tested aboard high-altitude balloons from Sioux Falls-based Aerostar and Tuscon-based World View.

NASA's TechRise Student Challenge invites teams of sixth to 12th-grade students to design, build, and launch science and technology experiments for space exploration and Earth observation on suborbital flights. Sponsored and managed by Flight Opportunities, the challenge flight tested student payloads on commercial suborbital rocket-powered vehicles and high-altitude balloons. Summer 2023 marked a series of flight tests that successfully flew 80 student payloads on high-altitude balloons – supporting data collection on a wide range of experiments in areas such as remote sensing, machine learning in low-Earth orbit, climate, agriculture, and human health.

Learn more about the TechRise Student Challenge about Space Exploration and Earth Observation Student Experiments Tested in the Stratosphere
Balloon in flight carrying gondola against the backdrop of a clear sky with scattered clouds and the sunrise. Green fields below.
Students experiments from 20 middle and high schools launched aboard a high-altitude balloon on June 14, 2023, as part of NASA’s TechRise Student Challenge.
Fresh Produce

Technology tested on the above campaign:

  • Fifty student payloads launched in South Dakota on a high-altitude balloon from Sioux Falls-based Aerostar on June 14 and July 21.
  • Thirty student payloads launched in Arizona on a high-altitude balloon from Tucson-based World View on July 24.

May 24–June 5, 2023

Fly-Fix-Fly Testing for SmallSat Planetary Observation

Winners of NASA’s first TechLeap Prize flew their payloads on a 12-day stratospheric flight that launched in South Dakota on a high-altitude balloon from Sioux Falls-based Aerostar. The technologies could improve autonomous observation capabilities for small spacecraft flying over Earth, the Moon, or other worlds.

This marks the second flight for the payloads – less than a year after their first individual flight tests – allowing winning teams to fix issues prior to re-flight. Selected through the TechLeap Autonomous Observation Challenge No. 1, teams developed technologies to autonomously detect, locate, track, and collect data on short-lived events, such as wildfires, unique aerosol dispersions like dust and steam plumes, or events on other planetary bodies such as geysers on the icy moons of Saturn and Jupiter. This second high-altitude balloon flight with all three payloads aboard cost-efficiently gave the teams a longer sensing and data collection opportunity. The teams included the SEAK (Systems Engineering, Architecture, and Knowledge) Lab at Texas A&M University in College Station; Bronco Space at Cal Poly Pomona in California; and Orion Labs, a small applied robotic research institution in Nunn, Colorado.

Learn more about this flight about Fly-Fix-Fly Testing for SmallSat Planetary Observation
A researcher bends forward to reach into a 3D frame to manipulate the technology suspended in the center via mounting hardware and surrounded by black and red wires and a blue cable.
Researcher Ben Gorr of the SEAK Lab at Texas A&M University prepares the SNAP technology payload for flight testing on a high-altitude balloon in May 2023.
Aerostar

Technology tested on the above campaign:

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2022 Flights

November 1-3 and 15-18, 2022

Space-Based Medical Technology, Autonomous Sampling of Biologic Data, Cryogenic Fluid Management and Modeling, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights

Researchers collected data that will help inform future technology advances with the aim of expanding medical capabilities needed for long-duration spaceflight. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

This series of parabolic flights provided testing for several Flight Opportunities–supported technologies. The flights featured brief periods of microgravity that allowed teams to test the performance of their payloads in a space environment. Some of those payloads included space-based medical innovations, such as the integration of suction and surgical technologies from Purdue University and the University of Louisville as well as lab-on-a-chip technology from the University of California, Berkeley. These flights also tested autonomous sampling for biological research, cryogenic fluid management and modeling, an affordable small spacecraft innovation, 3D printing techniques, space-based development of optical components, and devices to monitor for spaceflight-associated neuro-ocular syndrome (SANS) and to maintain sensorimotor conditioning.

Learn more about this flight about Space-Based Medical Technology, Autonomous Sampling of Biologic Data, Cryogenic Fluid Management and Modeling, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights
Five researchers run an experiment in microgravity, as indicated by one researcher's floating hair.
Researchers from MIT conduct microgravity experiments to develop computational fluid dynamics (CFD) models to support designing optimal propellant systems for long-duration, crewed space missions.
Zero Gravity Corporation / Steve Boxall

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

August 3, 2022

Satellite System for Plume Identification Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

Technologies tested may contribute to monitoring of fire, pollution, and volcanic activities. Payloads were tested aboard Aerostar’s Zero-Pressure Balloon System out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Developed by TechLeap Prize-winning students at Texas A&M’s Systems Engineering, Architecture, and Knowledge (SEAK) Lab, the Satellite for Natural and Artificial Plumes (SNAP) uses gimbaled cameras to collect image data and a computing system to process the data using a trained neural network to identify and track Earth-based plumes. This balloon flight enabled image collection and testing of SNAP’s plume tracking capability as well as identification of necessary improvements to its onboard computing system in advance of a second flight slated for 2023.

Learn more about the TechLeap Prize about Satellite System for Plume Identification Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
Orion Labs’ Quantum Earth Observatory launches on an Aerostar high-altitude balloon from the company’s facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on July 28, 2022. The observatory hardware is housed in the gondola seen carried below the balloon.
The SEAK Lab’s SNAP technology launches on an Aerostar high-altitude balloon from the company’s facility in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
Aerostar/Anastasia Quanbeck

Technology tested on the above campaign:

July 28, 2022

Quantum Machine Learning Technology for Earth Observation Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

This technology could significantly reduce the bandwidth needed for small spacecraft to send data about terrestrial events back to Earth. Payloads were tested aboard Aerostar’s Zero-Pressure Balloon System out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

TechLeap Prize winner Orion Labs developed and tested the Quantum Earth Observatory (QEOBS) – a four unit-sized CubeSat designed to demonstrate how onboard data processing and quantum machine learning can result in reduced downlink requirements. During the flight, QEOBS collected thousands of images of small dams and waterways, processing the image data onboard and efficiently downlinking only data about confirmed dam detections to the ground. The flight results will help the team identify specific Earth observation use cases for the technology and prepare for a potential future demonstration on a small spacecraft.

Learn more about this flight about Quantum Machine Learning Technology for Earth Observation Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
From left to right: Frank Soboczenski, Lead Machine Learning Scientist; Philippe Ludivig, Lead Payload Engineer; Sara Jennings, CEO and Principal Investigator; and Kolbron Schoenberger, Payload Science Intern.
Flight preparation: The Orion Labs team makes final hardware checks on their Quantum Earth Observation payload prior to launch. From left to right: Frank Soboczenski, Lead Machine Learning Scientist; Philippe Ludivig, Lead Payload Engineer; Sara Jennings, CEO and Principal Investigator; and Kolbron Schoenberger, Payload Science Intern.
Orion Labs / Margarita Reyes

Technology tested on the above campaign:

July 8, 2022 

Wildfire Detection System Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

This balloon flight is advancing a system designed to provide potentially faster, more accurate aerial detection of nascent wildfires. Payloads were tested aboard Aerostar’s Zero-Pressure Balloon System out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. 

Student members of TechLeap Prize winner Bronco Space Lab at Cal Poly Pomona developed and launched a wildfire detection system called Bronco Ember. Combining a short-wave infrared camera with artificial intelligence, the system is designed to provide potentially faster, more accurate aerial detection of nascent wildfires, which often go undetected by current geolocation methods. This balloon flight enabled the team to evaluate the technology’s efficacy and identify necessary improvements to its detection and tracking consistency – refinements they plan for the next generation of Bronco Ember.

Learn more about this flight about Wildfire Detection System Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
From left to right: Charles Pellitteri, Zachary Gaines, Julian Garcia, Thang Nguyen, Jacqueline Llamas, Matthew McDougall, and Cristian Rodriguez.
Members of the NASA TechLeap Prize-winning Cal Poly Pomona Bronco Space Lab with their Bronco Ember payload on July 8, 2022, prior to launch on a high-altitude balloon from Aerostar International. From left to right: Charles Pellitteri, Zachary Gaines, Julian Garcia, Thang Nguyen, Jacqueline Llamas, Matthew McDougall, and Cristian Rodriguez.
Aerostar / Aaron Propst

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

June 27-28, 2022 

Cryogenic Management, Space-Based Manufacturing, and Small Spacecraft Technologies Tested on Parabolic Flights

Post-flight analyses inform future payload design changes, helping to mature the technologies in advance of future flight tests and potential mission infusion. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Santa Maria, California. 

This flight campaign provided two flights on consecutive days, allowing research teams supported by NASA’s TechFlights awards from both industry and academia to test technologies designed for a range of space-based capabilities. Exposure to both zero gravity and lunar gravity enabled teams to evaluate the performance of their payloads and make adjustments between flights.

Learn more about NASA TechFlights about Cryogenic Management, Space-Based Manufacturing, and Small Spacecraft Technologies Tested on Parabolic Flights
Space Foundry parabolic flight june 2022
Zero Gravity Corporation/Tasha Dixon

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

May 9-12 and 16-17, 2022

Payloads for Additive Manufacturing, Biotechnology, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights

Brief periods of microgravity enabled the teams to test the performance of their payloads in one of the challenging environments of space. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

These two parabolic flight campaigns provided testing aboard the G-FORCE ONE aircraft for innovations designed for space-based biotech, surgery, 3D printing, power systems, and propellant gauging. Flights were funded by Flight Opportunities though a wide variety of NASA mechanisms (e.g., TechFlights awards, SBIR, Tipping Point awards).

Learn more about NASA TechFlights about Payloads for Additive Manufacturing, Biotechnology, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights
Researchers float in microgravity while checking experiment.
University of California, Berkeley

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

April 9-13, 2022

Sensor for Improved Weather Data Collection Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

The CubeSounder technology could benefit future balloon flights and CubeSats by enabling state-of-the-art atmospheric sounding capabilities that reveal subtle changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. Payloads were tested aboard World View Enterprises’ Stratollite® high-altitude balloon out of Tucson, Arizona.

This flight enabled testing of a small, lightweight, efficient 3D imaging sensor designed for weather forecasting from Arizona State University. The sensors probe the sky vertically for details on temperature, moisture, and water vapor to reveal subtle changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. In this first of two NASA-supported flight tests for the technology, World View’s Stratollite balloon reached a stratospheric altitude of approximately 70,000 feet. Over more than 100 hours of flight time, the CubeSounder collected atmospheric temperature and humidity data as 3D images – data that could ultimately be downlinked at high speeds from CubeSats or weather balloons and compared with that of other weather satellites and ground stations.

Learn more about this flight about Sensor for Improved Weather Data Collection Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
World View Enterprises

Technology tested on the above campaign:

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2021 Flights

December 7-15, 2021

Tech Designed for Space-Based First Aid, CubeSat Attitude Control, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights

These flights enabled research teams to leverage periods of microgravity to test their innovations. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Orlando, Florida

This week of parabolic flights provided testing for a wide range of Flight Opportunities–supported technologies. Research teams leveraged periods of microgravity to test innovations designed for space-based first aid, 3D printing, robotics, and more. Several technologies were also able to apply lessons learned from parabolic flights in November and rapidly refly on these flights just one month later.

Learn more about this flight about Tech Designed for Space-Based First Aid, CubeSat Attitude Control, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights
Hands around floating box.
A research team from University of California – Davis tested reaction wheels for CubeSats on parabolic flights in December 2021. The flights were provided by Zero Gravity Corporation and made possible through TechFlights.
Zero Gravity Corp. / Steve Boxall

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

November 16-19, 2021

Tech Designed for Space-Based Farming, Additive Manufacturing, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights

These flight tests helped researchers prepare their payloads for potential use in future NASA missions. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Orlando, Florida.

These flights provided a unique testing environment for space innovations supported by Flight Opportunities. Technologies designed for space farming, 3D printing, on-orbit refueling, and more were put to the test during these flights that provide brief periods of microgravity.

Learn more about this flight about Tech Designed for Space-Based Farming, Additive Manufacturing, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights
Zero gravity experiments
Zero Gravity Corporation/Steve Boxall

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

October 19, 2021

On Demand Payload Delivery Capsule Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

The guided re-entry capsule tested during this flight could one day be used for on-demand transport of payloads back to Earth. Payloads were tested aboard Near Space Corporation’s Small Balloon System out of Madras, Oregon.

This flight enabled testing of a payload return capsule called the Re-entry Device 4U (RED-4U). The capsule was suspended under a high-altitude balloon and released at an altitude of 103,000 feet. It landed within 250 feet of the target touch-down destination, thanks to a guided parafoil. The demonstration was a milestone for evaluating the capsule’s altitude-detection capabilities and the parafoil’s autonomous guidance and control and brings the technology a step closer to potential space-based uses. Approximately 20 inches in diameter, the guided re-entry capsule could one day be used for on-demand transport back to Earth of payloads up to about 18 pounds. It could carry materials manufactured in space for use on Earth, small instruments and tools, biological samples, and science experiments from low-Earth orbit destinations.

Learn more about this flight about On Demand Payload Delivery Capsule Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
Deployed parachute and payload against a cloudy sky
The release: The SpaceWorks RED-4U capsule in flight after being released from a Near Space Corporation high-altitude balloon at 103,000 feet. The parafoil guiding the capsule’s descent was developed by Earthly Dynamics Corporation and Aerial Delivery Solutions.
SpaceWorks Enterprises, Inc.

Technology tested on the above campaign:

October 14, 2021

High Tech Video Technology and Regolith Sensor Tested on Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing System

This testing was designed to help researchers understand the limit of how far from a planetary surface they would need to eject the payload in order for it to survive landing and function properly. Payloads were tested aboard Masten’s Xodiac out of Mojave, California.

Video capture during future lunar landings could play an important role in contributing to researchers’ understanding of disturbances in lunar surface materials – called regolith – caused by the lander’s rocket plume. This flight test leveraged Masten’s vertical takeoff vertical landing (VTVL) platform to simulate the movement of a lunar lander, enabling researchers to test an ejection mechanism to jettison a high-tech camera and regolith sensor onto the desert surface at specific altitudes just before landing. Once on the ground, the payload’s camera captured video footage from the unique vantage point of the desert surface – a stand-in for the surface of the Moon.

Learn more about this flight about High Tech Video Technology and Regolith Sensor Tested on Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing System
Camera in round metal cage in the desert.
Zandef Deksit’s ExoCam in its metal cage
Jason Achilles Mezilis/Zandef Deksit

Technology tested on the above campaign:

August 26, 2021

Technologies to Study Lunar Dust, Space-Based Biology, and More Tested on Rocket-Based System

This flight helped advance NASA’s trash-to-gas technology, OSCAR, as well as an experiment designed to help understand shifts in biological organisms as they transition between varying levels of gravity. Payloads were tested aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard out of Van Horn, Texas.

In Blue Origin’s 17th New Shepard mission, the fully reusable launch vehicle carried technologies from NASA, industry, and academia aboard for just over 10 minutes. The vehicle reached an apogee of nearly 350,000 feet, exposing the payloads aboard to some of the conditions they will need to withstand in potential future orbital missions. Key milestones included the second suborbital flight test of NASA’s trash-to-gas technology, OSCAR, as well as the third suborbital flight test for a University of Florida experiment designed to understand shifts in biological organisms as they transition between varying levels of gravity.

Learn more about this flight about Technologies to Study Lunar Dust, Space-Based Biology, and More Tested on Rocket-Based System
Landing of New Shepard booster.
Blue Origin

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

July 27, 2021; September 22, 2021

Radiation-Tolerant Computing System Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

This flight provided critical preparation for future assessment of a radiation-tolerant computing system and its functionality in long-duration space missions. Payloads were tested aboard Raven Aerostar’s Super Pressure Balloon System out of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Two high-altitude balloon flights enabled researchers to test a radiation-tolerant computing system called RadPC. The innovation is designed to replace failed processors in real time – and testing was needed to make sure the computing system can withstand the high-energy radiation particles emitted by the Sun and other celestial bodies. During more than 80 hours of flight time, researchers tested the computing technology against more than 3,000 injected system faults; the RadPC recovered from all of them successfully. The flights added to data collected during many other suborbital flights facilitated by Flight Opportunities, including sounding rocket and other balloon flights. The testing and validation were also critical preparation for a planned 2023 lunar demonstration of RadPC, which will enable assessment of its functionality for long-duration space missions.

Learn more about this flight about Radiation-Tolerant Computing System Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
High Altitude balloon in the sky
Raven Aerostar

Technology tested on the above campaign:

June 14, 2021

Advanced Cloud Sensor Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

The new nephelometer tested here may provide information about a cloud’s water content as well as its impact on a planet’s atmosphere or thermal and radiation environments. Payloads were tested aboard Raven Aerostar’s Zero-Pressure Balloon System out of Baltic, South Dakota.

This flight test enabled researchers to assess a new nephelometer called NephEx, a sensor that measures light scattering by airborne particles, including cloud droplets and ice particles. NephEx could also supplement common techniques for cloud and climate monitoring, such as remote sensing via satellite. The high-altitude balloon flight provided an important step in maturing the technology and assessing its capabilities to measure the size, concentration, and distribution of cloud particles – data critical to understanding the impact of clouds on a planet’s climate.

Learn more about this flight about Advanced Cloud Sensor Tested on High-Altitude Balloon
Raven Aerostar’s Lightning Zero Pressure Balloon System inflated.
Raven Aerostar

Technology tested on the above campaign:

  • NephEx (NASA’s Ames Research Center)

June 1-6, 2021

Turbulence Detection Technologies Tested on Hybrid Balloon/Glider System

These flights enabled testing of instruments designed to aid turbulence detection for remote-piloted and autonomous aerial vehicles, including commercial aircraft and on-demand delivery drones. Payloads were tested aboard Stratodynamics’ HiDRON out of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

This series of flights provided by Stratodynamics Inc. of Lewes, Delaware, leveraged the company’s HiDRON stratospheric glider. The glider launched from a high-altitude balloon at Spaceport America in New Mexico, carrying technology supported by NASA’s Flight Opportunities program for the first time. The flights aimed to help researchers assess the performance of both a wind probe developed by the University of Kentucky in Lexington and an infrasonic microphone sensor, developed by researchers at Langley and licensed by Stratodynamics in 2020. The flights enabled cross validation of the sensor with the wind probe. The HiDRON glider enabled the instruments to capture wind velocity, direction, magnitude, and low-frequency sound waves.

Learn more about this flight about Turbulence Detection Technologies Tested on Hybrid Balloon/Glider System
The uncrewed HiDRON stratospheric glider from Stratodynamics in the air.
In a series of flights between June 1 and 6 Stratodynamics Inc. of Lewes, Delaware, launched its HiDRON stratospheric glider
Stratodynamics, Inc.

Technology tested on the above campaign:

May 22, 2021

Suborbital Sensor Suite, Dust Experiment, and Space-Based Surgical System Tested on Rocket-Powered Space Plane

The technologies tested on this flight were designed to provide information about the environmental conditions inside a spacecraft; the behavior of dust and fine particles in response to human and robotic activities in space; and a system to help facilitate wound care in microgravity conditions. Payloads were tested aboard Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo out of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Taking off for the first time from New Mexico’s Spaceport America and reaching an altitude of more than 50 miles (80 kilometers), Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo exposed several Flight Opportunities-supported payloads to more than two minutes of microgravity, enabling researchers to assess performance and make necessary design updates based on the data collected. The technologies aboard included a sensor suite designed to provide suborbital researchers with vital information about the environmental conditions inside a spacecraft; a dust experiment that aims to advance our understanding of the behavior of dust and fine particles in response to human and robotic activities in space; and a space-based surgical system designed to help facilitate wound care in microgravity conditions.

Learn more about this flight about Suborbital Sensor Suite, Dust Experiment, and Space-Based Surgical System Tested on Rocket-Powered Space Plane
Spacecraft with "Virgin" written on the side rocketing through a deep blue sky
Virgin Galactic

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

May 4-7, 2021

Long-Term Food Storage, Autonomous Lunar Robots, Origami-Inspired Solar Arrays, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights

This series of flights allowed research teams to leverage brief periods of microgravity to test their innovations. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This series of parabolic flights provided testing for a wide range of Flight Opportunities-supported technologies. Research teams leveraged brief periods of microgravity to test innovations designed for structural inspections and servicing, space-based blood transfusions, propellant management, surgical fluid management, space-based manufacturing, and more.

View photos from this flight—THIS LINK HAS NO PHOTOS about Long-Term Food Storage, Autonomous Lunar Robots, Origami-Inspired Solar Arrays, and More Tested on Parabolic Flights
Researchers from Purdue University aboard G-FORCE One

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

April 28-30, 2021

Biomedical Research Technology, CubeSat Boom, and Manufacturing Method for Life Support Systems Tested on Parabolic Flights

These flights were critical to evaluating ring-sheared drop and fluid dispensing experiments from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute ahead of deployment on the International Space Station. Payloads were tested aboard Zero Gravity Corporation’s G-FORCE ONE out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

This series of parabolic flights provided testing for several Flight Opportunities-supported technologies. The experiment is designed to study the formation of potentially destructive amyloid fibrils, or protein clusters, like those found in the brain tissue of patients with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Conducting the experiment in microgravity enables researchers to “pin” a droplet of liquid between two rings and cultivate amyloid fibrils for study. The flights enabled the research team to demonstrate that their hardware is capable of deploying and pinning each of the protein solutions that will be used on the station to help advance neurodegenerative disease research.

Learn more about this flight about Biomedical Research Technology, CubeSat Boom, and Manufacturing Method for Life Support Systems Tested on Parabolic Flights
Researchers on G-FORCE ONE parabolic flight

Technologies tested on the above campaign:

April 15, 2021

Small Payload Delivery System Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

This flight provided an important preparatory step for future testing of a technology designed to carry research samples and other small payloads from astronauts on the International Space Station back to Earth. Payloads were tested aboard Near Space Corporation’s Small Balloon System out of Madras, Oregon.

This balloon flight enabled testing of an 11-inch diameter small payload delivery system called the KREPE capsule (previously referred to as the KRUPS capsule) designed to carry research samples and other small payloads from astronauts on the International Space Station back to Earth. Although the balloon reached an altitude of approximately 100,000 feet, the conditions did not expose KRUPS to the temperatures needed to test its thermal protection system (TPS). However, the test did provide an important preparatory step in advance of a subsequent orbital test of the capsule and its TPS.

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The KRUPS unit
The KRUPS unit is shown here at the University of Kentucky in Lexington in preparation for flight testing on a Near Space Corporation high-altitude balloon. The metal enclosure around the small capsule opens to release it at the appropriate altitude.
University of Kentucky

Technology tested on the above campaign:

March 12, 2021

Advanced Communications Technology for CubeSat Swarms Tested on High-Altitude Balloon

This flight enabled testing of the V-R3x technology, designed to support advanced communications and navigation capabilities among coordinated groups – or swarms – of CubeSats. Payloads were tested aboard Raven Aerostar’s Zero Pressure Balloon System out of Madras, Oregon.

Specifically, the flight allowed researchers to evaluate V-R3x's advanced swarm communications by forming a mesh network between multiple spacecraft and ground stations. The flight data was to be added to that of an orbital flight test of three V-R3x CubeSats that launched to space in January 2021.

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Raven's high-altitude balloon is inflated the morning of its March 12, 2021
Raven Aerostar’s high-altitude balloon is inflated the morning of its March 12, 2021 flight to test NASA’s V-R3x technology in Baltic, SD – an effort made possible by the Agency’s new PACE initiative.
Raven Aerostar

Technology tested on the above campaign:

  • V-R3x (NASA’s Ames Research Center, Stanford University)