Environmental Tectonics Corporation’s The NASTAR Center, the premier commercial aerospace training and research center in the world, and member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, conducted last week its latest set of Suborbital Scientist space training for future scientist-astronauts and educator-astronauts.  Participants learned how to design and fly scientific research experiments onboard commercial suborbital spacecraft such as those operated by Virgin Galactic, Blue Origin, XCOR Aerospace, and Armadillo Aerospace.

Demonstrating the strong interest from the scientific community in using commercial suborbital vehicles for science, research, and education, a total of 42 researchers from 18 different universities and organizations have now each spent three days training at NASTAR Center in four separate classes since the Suborbital Scientist Training Program debuted in January 2010. The upcoming suborbital scientist class on July 11-13 is already fully booked, and a university booked a custom class for July 18-20.  The next available slot for potential scientist-astronauts is September 12-14.

Keith Cowing, a Board of Directors member of the Challenger Center for Space Education and well-known space journalist, remarked, “Based on my NASTAR experience (centrifuge & altitude chamber), ANYONE in good health with good training can fly to space.  These new suborbital vehicles will inaugurate a new era for education and science, and I’m excited to cover it just as its true potential starts to unfold.”

Dr. Alan Stern, associate vice president at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) and chairman of the CSF’s Suborbital Applications Researchers Group, stated, “This shows sustained interest in the researcher/educator community” in suborbital spaceflight.  In early 2010, SwRI helped kick off the Suborbital Scientist Training Program in conjunction with NASTAR. 

Training sessions in the multi-day “Suborbital Scientist Training Course” included: Altitude Chamber Flight in a hypobaric chamber; G-Tolerance Flights in a high-g centrifuge; and a distraction factor exercise.  Topics covered in ground school included: Intro to Suborbital Flight & Vehicles; Altitude Physiology; Motion & Acceleration Physiology; Space Launch & Reentry Training; Working Under Pressure; and Time Management.

Brienna Henwood, Director for Space and Research at NASTAR Center, remarked, “I can’t think of a better way to inspire students to pursue science careers, than by providing hand-on space training and realistic spaceflight opportunities that will enable them to one day join the ranks of an entirely new class of explorer – the suborbital scientist-astronaut.  We fully expect that hundreds of scientists will fly into space during the next 10 years as these vehicles start flying, and NASTAR is proud to offer the needed space training services to get them there.”

Other participants included Cathy Olkin and Constantine Tsang from the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI), an nonprofit institution which recently announced it will be buying tickets for scientists’ flights to space as part of a historic deal announced by SwRI to buy seats on the XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic vehicles; Rex Ridenoure, CEO of Ecliptic Enterprises; Tony Dokupil from NEWSWEEK, and several other trainees.