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NASA awards $10 million in contracts to private space firms

Four California companies are among seven that will carry the space agency's payloads into the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere.

August 11, 2011|By W.J. Hennigan, Los Angeles Times
  • The space shuttle Discovery -- its nose encased in protective plastic, its cockpit windows covered, and strongbacks attached to its payload bay doors -- is welcomed into the Vehicle Assembly Building, after its roll from Orbiter Processing Facility.
The space shuttle Discovery -- its nose encased in protective plastic,… (Ken Thornsley / AP Photo…)

NASA handed out $10 million in contracts this week to seven commercial space companies to carry 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 suborbit. 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."

william.hennigan@latimes.com

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