NASA Scientist Participant Suborbital Research Program RFI

Status Report From: Ames Research Center
Posted: Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Scientist Participant Suborbital Research Program
All Mission Directorates
Solicitation Number: NNH008ZDA011L
Release Date: September 23, 2008
Response Date: December 5, 2008

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recognizes the advancement of the commercial suborbital spaceflight industry and requests information on potential flight experiments enabled by this capability. NASA is determining whether this new platform represents a unique, efficient, cost-effective way of doing business for the agency and is eager to explore all possibilities represented by the various options soon to be available from a variety of commercial providers. NASA is in the formulation phase of a possible new program to fly government-sponsored payloads and/or researchers on commercial suborbital systems with the intent of advancing NASA's research goals and objectives across Directorates, including the Space Operation Mission Directorate and the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate. Responses to this RFI will be used to inform NASA's program planning.


Suborbital missions have provided an important arena for astronomical, terrestrial, and other areas of space research, including technology demonstration, for over 60 years. The emergence of human suborbital flight for commercial purposes now offers a natural and timely opportunity to open a new research venue to the broader NASA research community. The potential to fly a researcher with the payload could reduce the hardware and autonomy requirements of many potential payloads. In addition, the potential to fly a small unaccompanied payload regularly and frequently also opens broad avenues of research.

The Science Mission Directorate at NASA issued a RFI in February 2008 requesting information on human tended suborbital science investigations that address NASA's science objectives in astrophysics, Earth science, heliophysics, and planetary science. NASA is currently soliciting proposals for funded concept studies of human tended suborbital science investigations in those four science disciplines through the Research Opportunities in Space and Earth Sciences 2008 (ROSES-08) NASA Research Announcement (NRA) (NNH08ZDA001N-HTSS) (proposals are due December 5 - see , select "Solicitations", select "Open Solicitations", select "NNH08ZDA001N", select "List of Program Elements", select "Concept Studies for Human Tended Suborbital Science").

In this RFI, NASA is soliciting ideas and comments from the science, research, and technology communities on potential suborbital investigations with the option of, but not limited to, a "human in the loop" that support any of NASA's goals. With input from responses to this RFI, NASA intends to (i) consider acquiring commercial suborbital seats and/or flights for NASA-funded researchers to conduct suborbital investigations and (ii) consider an additional solicitation for proposals for suborbital investigation concept studies that address NASA's research needs, especially those in science disciplines beyond those included in the current ROSES-08 solicitation. For an overview of NASA's strategic goals and objectives refer to The 2006 NASA Strategic Plan (2006), available at

Instructions for Response

The response to this RFI will be in the form of a PDF document that is uploaded through NASA's NSPIRES system (see instructions below). The response should not exceed three pages in length.

The complete RFI including background, requested information, and instructions for responding may be found at (select "Solicitations" then "Open Solicitations" then "Request for Information (NNH08ZDA011L) Scientist Participant Suborbital Research Program).

Responses to this RFI must be submitted no later than December 5, 2008.

For further information on the Science Participant Suborbital Research Program, please contact Dr Yvonne Cagle, Mail Code VP, NASA Ames Research Center, Mountain View, CA 94035; phone at 281-244-8628; email at

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