NASA issued a press release today announcing seven companies had been selected "to integrate and fly technology payloads on commercial suborbital reusable platforms that carry payloads near the boundary of space."
The selected companies are:
-- Armadillo Aerospace, Heath, Texas
-- Near Space Corp., Tillamook, Ore.
-- Masten Space Systems, Mojave, Calif.
-- Up Aerospace Inc., Highlands Ranch, Colo.
-- Virgin Galactic, Mojave, Calif.
-- Whittinghill Aerospace LLC, Camarillo, Calif.
-- XCOR, Mojave, Calif.
As part of NASA's Flight Opportunities Program, each successful vendor will receive an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract. These two-year contracts, worth a combined total of $10 million, will allow NASA to draw from a pool of commercial space companies to deliver payload integration and flight services. The flights will carry a variety of payloads to help meet the agency's research and technology needs.
UPDATE August 11, 2011 — Aviation Week reports that some of these commercial orbital flights may be crewed.
Two of the companies selected — Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace, both of Mojave, Calif. — are developing piloted spaceplanes designed to carry humans to suborbital space for research and tourism. Two more — Armadillo Aerospace of Heath, Texas, and Up Aerospace Inc., of Highlands Ranch, Colo. — have parachute-recoverable sounding-rocket technology for suborbital experiments. Armadillo also is developing a reusable vertical-takeoff-and-landing vehicle for research payloads, as is Mojave-based Masten Space Systems, another contract winner.