Scientific experiments and space tourism: A perfect wedding ?


Here’s a guest post from my friend Jonathan, who writes at From Space with Love. Do check out his blog and feel free to comment if you have any questions.

Blue Origin’s New Shepard – Credits: Blue Origin Scientific research would like to take advantage of the opportunity offered by space tourism companies like Blue Origin and Virgin Galactic to send scientific experiments into space. New Shepard space capsule test flights regularly ship NASA science experiments and the US space agency has also selected two payloads that will share a SpaceShipTwo flight. NASA also stated that it would like its researchers to be able to go into space aboard this type of vehicle.



New Shepard’s capsule after a test flight – Credits : NASA Flight Opportunities [Public domain]

A few minutes in the seventh heaven for a (relatively) low price

In four to five minutes of 0G, we can do many interesting scientific experiments. The frequency of the flights and the relatively low price should give some attraction to this solution. So far, these researchers must use sounding rockets, whose launch price is often close to a million dollars. That is too expensive to launch a lot of experiments in space. Moreover, it is not possible to ship humans into sounding rockets to direct and control scientific experiments. Blue Origin’s space capsule and Virgin Galactic’s space plane are therefore great opportunities for space agencies, universities and laboratories to send both experiments and scientists to space.

A win-win, faithful union

Some of them may have the financial capacity to buy some places aboard Blue Origin’s New Shepard and Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Large companies often offer rebates to academics, perhaps private space tourism companies will do the same. In return, these lucky private space companies will benefit from regular orders, which is the key in the space industry to continuing to make big investments.


Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo – Credits : Jeff Foust [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)]

This wedding could have many facets

It is also possible that in addition to passengers, commercial suborbital spaceships will make room for cargo. If it becomes possible to ship scientific experiments without paying for a passenger to accompany them, these suborbital flights could become very interesting for the scientific community. Spending a few tens of thousands of dollars to test a scientific experiment in 0G is possible for many more potential customers. Scientists may be an important part of Blue Origin’s and Virgin Galactic’s customer base.


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