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NASA is studying the potential of future cooperation with the suborbital tourism firm Virgin Galactic on a variety of fronts, agency officials announced Wednesday.
A Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. space agency and Virgin Galactic, signed Tuesday, will allow NASA to eye future collaboration with the space tourism firm on the development of spacesuits, spacecraft heat shields, hybrid rocket motors and hypersonic vehicles.
"By encouraging such potential collaborations, NASA supports the development of greater commercial collaboration and applications that will serve to strengthen and enhance the future benefits of space exploration for all of mankind,” Shana Dale, NASA’s deputy administrator, said in a statement.
Under the memorandum, NASA’s Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California will study the possibility of future collaboration with Virgin Galactic for a period of two years, though no funds will be exchanged between the two entities.
NASA officials stressed that the memorandum does not include provisions for astronaut training, the purchase of future seats aboard Virgin Galactic spacecraft or the supply of technical advice to the private spaceflight firm.
"As we constantly seek to build upon the advances made by explorers who have come before us, we now embark upon an exciting time in space exploration history that realizes the unlimited opportunities presented by a commercial space economy," Dale said in the agency’s Wednesday statement.