WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, successfully included an amendment to S. 1317, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Reauthorization Act of 2013, to expand the development and testing of new space technologies within NASA's Flight Opportunities Program. The NASA Reauthorization Act of 2013, including Sen. Heinrich's amendment, passed the committee and can now go to the full Senate for consideration.
"This critical program provides opportunities for students, math and science leaders, and small businesses to experiment and test innovative technologies that could yield tremendous scientific results for the space community in New Mexico and future NASA missions," said Sen. Heinrich. "Fostering an environment that brings together technology developers and the commercial flight industry helps cultivate the next generation of researchers and technologists, and creates jobs."
NASA's Flight Opportunities Program partners with some of the country's leading aerospace industries at Spaceport America in southern New Mexico, including UP Aerospace, Virgin Galactic, and Armadillo Aerospace. Heinrich's amendment provides cost-effective opportunities for students and small businesses to test innovative space technologies by partnering with suborbital aerospace providers.
The Flight Opportunities Program was originally incorporated into NASA's Space Technology Program in 2010 with a push by U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.). The Space Technology Program serves as the agency's technology development and demonstration engine.
"Developing new space technology encourages and challenges our scientific community to break new ground and explore unlimited possibilities, and it can result in surprising new technologies and high-tech jobs," said Sen. Udall. "As a former member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, I encouraged the development and testing of new space technologies, and I commend Senator Heinrich for taking up my cause to ensure that this cost-effective NASA initiative continues to benefit students, scientists, and businesses in New Mexico's budding commercial space industry."
"We are grateful that Senator Heinrich has already begun to use his new position on the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee to help promote suborbital spaceflight and scientific research by expanding NASA's Flight Opportunities Program," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides.
"New Mexico students and faculty will have three opportunities to fly their experiments in space this fall semester because of the Flight Opportunities Program that is now working with Up Aerospace at Spaceport America," said New Mexico Space Grant Consortium Director Patricia C. Hynes, Ph.D. "This amendment passed in committee today is an essential piece of legislation to support this forward looking NASA program. This program is committed to increasing access to space for student and faculty experiments from across the country."