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NASA picks two firms for experimental flights

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NASA has awarded $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems as part if its Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) program designed to develop reusable edge-of-space transportation.

NASA has awarded $475,000 to Armadillo Aerospace and Masten Space Systems as part if its Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Program (CRuSR) program designed to develop reusable edge-of-space transportation.

The goal of the CRuSR program is to demonstrate the launch and testing of payloads in near-space, the part of the Earth's atmosphere between 65,000 and 350,000 feet. Overall, NASA is looking to make near-space transportation regular and frequent.

The CRuSR awards will fund two flights this fall and one this winter of Armadillo's Super-Mod vehicle from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Armadillo Aerospace, based in Rockwall, Texas, will conduct the first two flights at an altitude of about nine miles. The third flight will be roughly 25 miles up.

According to a NASA statement, the Masten Space Systems' Xaero vehicle will make four flights this winter from the Mojave Spaceport in California. Two flights will reach an altitude of three miles with the other two about 18 miles up. The higher flights will feature an engine shutdown.

To gauge the success of the flights, the vehicles will have three antennas to broadcast position data and other surveillance.

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Larry Dignan

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Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure