NASA could be ready to purchase autonomous and manned suborbital science flights from 1 October 2010 if its Ames Research Center managed human tended suborbital science programme gets the funding it wants for the fiscal year 2011 budget. That budget would be published in February 2010

NASA Ames personnel spoke at the Space Access Society conference’s last session of its second day and explained the request for proposals process it has had for the science community

In the next four weeks the space agency expects to place up to eight $50,000 awards for conceptual studies relating to what the scientists, the user community, think can be done with suborbital flights

The prospect of 4min of microgravity, according to the Ames staff, is very attractive to many science communities that use the few seconds available with parabolic aircraft flights. The level of  interest in the RFP process conducted so far has meant that Ames is considering having more

According to the Ames speakers the first of the 2011 suborbital flights are likely to use equipment to characterise the environment of the flight profile to ensure experiments can be prepared properly  

Hyperbola has an audio recording of the session and plans to release it in full or in part in the next few days