XCOR’s Lynx Suborbital Vehicle (Credits: XCOR Aerospace).

A United States Rocket Academy project called Citizens in Space is challenging the participants of the International Space Apps Challenge (ISAC)  to develop a suborbital science payload. One of the winning payloads  may fly into space aboard the Lynx, a two-seat rocket ship from XCOR Aerospace company, one of the commercial spacecraft currently under development. “Citizens in Space has acquired a contract for 10 flights with XCOR Aerospace,” said Edward Wright, Citizens in Space project manager. According to Steve Heck, a middle-school science teacher and Citizens in Space Pathfinder astronaut candidate, “we’re challenging the citizen-science and Maker community to contribute payloads for these flights […] to make all of these flights available for citizen science.” The International Space Apps Challenge (ISAC) is a NASA-sponsored two day competition that takes place over 7 continents and in space, involving over 18 cities, the International Space Station and McMurdo station in Antarctica. The contest will take place during 21-22 April, and some of the challenges presented in this edition regard space tourism flight. Citizens in Space have challenged the developer community to work on two types of payloads. One will travel inside the cabin in a pressurized environment, the other will be exposed directly to the space environment. “In the case of the Lynx, these payloads would be carried in an experiment box behind the right seat,” said Heck about the pressurized experiments. The astronaut will be able to activate the experiment during the flight and obtain data, so this will be exposed to the microgravity environment, but it will be protected from the conditions of space. These kind of experiments will be used for research in fluid processing, life science, engineering-test and material processing experiments. The payload exposed directly to space will travel in a special port on the Lynx’s aft cowling, a part that  will be exposed to the vacuum of space during the flight. “This class of payload is ideal for experiments that need access to the space environment or the upper atmosphere,” said Heck. According to XCOR the first flight of the Lynx is programmed to be before the end of this year. More details are available in the International Space Challenge Website; participants who have payload questions may email project manager Edward Wright at [email protected]