The contract, which includes options for two additional charter flights, has a total value of $4.5 million.
Each Virgin Galactic mission supports up to 1300 pounds of scientific experiments, enabling up to 600 experimental payloads per flight. A Flight Test Engineer will be available to monitor and interact with experiments, as necessary.
"An enormous range of disciplines can benefit from access to space, but historically, such research opportunities have been rare and expensive," says George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. “At Virgin Galactic, we are fully dedicated to revolutionizing access to space, both for tourist astronauts and, through programs like this, for researchers."
NASA's charter for these flights falls under the Flight Opportunities Program, managed by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, Calif. NASA has arranged the flight of a broad range of innovative scientific payloads designed by NASA labs, universities, and private companies across the U.S.