The Space Engineering Research Center (SERC) received mention in two separate presentations at the recent Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference (NSRC) on June 3-5 at Broomfield, Colorado. Ed Wright of Citizens in Space discussed the experiment payload carrier that the SERC is developing with a student team from the TAMU Industrial and Systems Engineering (ISEN) Department, for the XCOR Lynx Space Plane. The ISEN student mentor is Dr. Justin Yates. This presentation, “The Lynx Cub Payload Carrier for Small Suborbital Experiments”, discussed the development and operational use of the carrier on the Lynx, and some of the citizen payloads being considered. These payloads, built to multiples of the cubesat size standard, will allow researchers to perform experiments for a few minutes in near-zero gravity (weightless) conditions. In addition to recognition through this presentation, the ISEN student team built a mid-fidelity mockup of the carrier that was displayed at the XCOR display station.
Full scale mockup of the XCOR Lynx parked outside (left), and the mid-fidelity Lynx Cub Payload Carrier mockup next to a Lynx Model (right).
The SERC was also part of the team that developed the Multi-Phase Flow Experiment for Suborbital Testing (MFEST) as presented by Mike Ellis of Advanced Cooling Technologies. MFEST is a NASA Johnson Space Center project and Mike reported on the recent series of parabolic test flights conducted on Zero G Corporation’s aircraft. SERC’s PI, Dr. Cable Kurwitz and Flight Test Engineer, Dr. Frank Little helped to insure the return of sufficient test data to verify MFEST’s readiness for a follow-on flight test series on one of the commercial suborbital launch providers as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. Because of the size of the MFEST payload, the suborbital flight provider is expected to be Virgin Galactic’s Spaceship Two. Spaceship Two recently conducted its first powered flight at Mojave, California, and is hoping to begin commercial flights as soon as a year from now.
The Next Generation Suborbital Researchers Conference brings together launch providers, payload developers, and new space technology enthusiasts to update attendees on the status of the commercial space industry, and to share ideas and opportunities. Commercial space is loosely defined as pertaining to a business model of providing space transportation for humans or cargo and the associated support industries, and generally pursued without government program funding. This is the second year that Chip Hill, SERC Director, has attended this conference to develop relationships and ideas for future commercial space projects.