NASA’s private spaceflight plans extend well beyond launching people into orbit. The agency is forming a plan to fly astronauts, investigators and other staff aboard suborbital spacecraft. Once a Suborbital Crew office inside the Commercial Crew Program has qualified a suborbital system as safe to use, NASA will buy seats aboard suborbital flights for various missions.
According to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, agency astronauts may use private suborbital flights for training and research experiments once these commercial trips have been proven safe. Such jaunts could help pave the way for the next crewed mission to the surface of the moon, which NASA aims to do in 2024.
This comes just a day after Virgin Galactic signed a deal with NASA to ferry private citizens to the ISS and makes clear just how aggressively the organization is pursuing private spaceflight. It wants commercial use at virtually every level, even for brief hops like these.