XCOR Aerospace said Feb. 24 that the Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) has purchased six suborbital flights for SwRI researchers and their experiments. The flights aboard XCOR’s reusable Lynx suborbital spaceplane are meant to serve as pathfinder missions for other SwRI clients, XCOR said in a press release.

XCOR and SwRI declined to disclose the financial terms of the deal.

XCOR said each one of the six flights will include an SwRI-trained principal investigator who will perform research using biomedical, microgravity and astronomy imaging experiments conceived and prepared for flight at SwRI.

SwRI has an option to purchase three additional flights at any time, the release said.

Among the group of principal investigators identified for these flights is Alan Stern, the former NASA associate administrator for science who laid the foundation for the NASA Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research program during his stint at the agency.

“These are exciting times for the suborbital research field,” Stern said in a statement. “XCOR and SwRI are blazing new trails with this engagement and setting the stage for others to follow with their experiments.”

In a Feb. 24 e-mail response to questions, Stern said the flights would begin in 2012 or 2013.

The two-seat, piloted Lynx vehicle resembles a small airplane and is designed for runway takeoff and landing. The first “wheels up” flight tests are expected “in about a year,” according to Stern.