NASA and Virgin Galactic sign MOU

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NASA officials have signed a memorandum of understanding with Virgin Galactic to explore the potential for collaborations on future space travel and technology. Areas of research could include the development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles capable of travelling five or more times the speed of sound.

Under the terms of the agreement, NASA Ames Research Center, located in California's Silicon Valley, and Virgin Galactic, a US-based subsidiary of Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group, will explore possible collaborations in several technical areas employing capabilities and facilities of NASA's Ames Research Center.

‘As we constantly seek to build upon the advances made by explorers who have come before us, we now embark upon an exciting time in space exploration history that realises the unlimited opportunities presented by a commercial space economy,’ said Shana Dale, NASA's deputy administrator. ‘By encouraging such potential collaborations, NASA supports the development of greater commercial collaboration and applications that will serve to strengthen and enhance the future benefits of space exploration for all of mankind.’

The agreement with Virgin Galactic was negotiated through NASA's Space Portal, a newly formed organisation in the NASA Research Park at Ames, which seeks to engage new opportunities for NASA to promote the development of the commercial space economy.

NASA says the memorandum is only a framework to explore potential collaborations. It does not include training of NASA astronauts, an agreement to buy seats on a Virgin Galactic flight, or provision of technical advice by NASA to Virgin Galactic.