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NASA and Virgin Galactic ink space deal

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NASA and Virgin Galactic announced this week they'd agreed to work together on future projects such as "development of space suits, heat shields for spaceships, hybrid rocket motors, and hypersonic vehicles".

Dr S Pete Worden, director of the NASA Ames Research Centre, told eWeek: "Virgin Galactic is developing space ships, and we are developing space ships, and the more we find out what Virgin is working on and doing, the more possibilities there will be for NASA to learn from Virgin Galactic."

NASA deputy administrator Shana Dole added: "We are constantly seeking out collaborative endeavours with entrepreneurial space firms, and we believe that Virgin Galactic brings great energy and innovation to go along with our experience and technology."

The deal does, however, specify that "neither organisation will pay fees or provide funds to support the areas of possible consideration because the agreement is only a framework that outlines potential collaborations".

Warden admitted that this "will take months to figure out", but added NASA feels "there could be a lot of mutual benefits as it affords NASA an opportunity to work with an emerging company in the commercial human space transportation industry to support the agency's exploration, science and aeronautics mission goals".

Virgin Galactic, meanwhile, is currently taking bookings for its sub-orbital vehicle, which it hopes will carry the first paying punters to the edge of space in 2008. There's an entertaining and rather breathless overview here. ®

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