Suborbital Training Center Gets FAA Safety Approval

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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of Commercial Space Transportation granted April 7 the National Aerospace Training and Research Center (NASTAR) a safety pre-approval that permits the Southampton, Pa.-based firm to offer FAA-qualified training services to prospective suborbital space launch operators.

“The Safety Approval we have granted to NASTAR is the first safety approval issued by the FAA for a suborbital spaceflight training system,” George Nield, FAA associate administrator for commercial space transportation, said in a statement.

NASTAR operates a space training simulator, STS-400, that the FAA says is capable of replicating the G-forces associated with suborbital spaceflight. The FAA Safety Approval Order is effective until April 2015. According to the FAA Web site, “A safety approval enables launch and reentry vehicle operators to use an approved safety element within the scope specified in the safety approval without the FAA re-examining the element in a license or experimental permit applications.”

Meanwhile, a Phoenix-based group called Astronauts4Hire is eager to take advantage of NASTAR’s training services. The group announced April 12 it had selected 11 initial astronaut candidates from industry and academia to train and subsequently work for private firms conducting research aboard suborbital spacecraft, such as Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, which recently flew its first captive-carry flight test.

Astronauts4Hire is trying to raise $40,000 to pay for the astronaut candidates to participate in NASTAR’s three-day Suborbital Scientist Training program. As of April 13, the group had raised $25 from one contributor. Astronauts4Hire is accepting donations through its Web site until Nov. 1.