Virgin Galactic's new Space Act agreement "also serves as a pathfinder for the ISS National Laboratory", according to the statement, by demonstrating NASA's increasing involvement in commercial spaceflight, specifically with regard to the space station.
NASA is going to chart a path for its astronauts and other personnel to take part in future commercial suborbital spaceflight missions, letting the agency conduct experiments and do research aboard suborbital human spacecraft - including, potentially, vehicles like Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo.More news: Fauci warns of disturbing trend as Trump ignores viral surge
In addition to offering "private astronaut experiences", the company will also offer its services for "government-enabled scientific missions".
Neither NASA nor Virgin appears to be claiming that Virgin Galactic spacecraft themselves will fly to ISS, just train astronauts to do so. The flights would allow would-be astronauts "to become familiar with the environment in space, such as G-forces and zero-G". Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic's home base, will be utilized for some elements of the training program, using the facilities designed for private astronaut training.More news: Crusaders claim opening win over Hurricanes
The company - which is publicly traded but largely owned by founder Richard Branson and chairman Chamath Palihapitiya - announced on Monday that it signed a "Space Act Agreement" with NASA's Johnson Space Center, which leads the agency's astronaut program in Houston. "W$3 e are proud to share that insight in helping to grow another market for the new space economy".
Talking point: Under the agreement, Virgin Galactic would be in charge of finding companies and organizations that want to send people to the space station, and then arranging transport for them. Using its proprietary and reusable technologies and supported by a distinctive, Virgin-branded customer experience, it is developing a spaceflight system created to offer customers a unique, multi-day, transformative experience. These trips would not be operated by Virgin Galactic; instead the company would be acting nearly like a travel agent, identifying commercial clients and coordinating their trips to space. Together we are opening access to space to change the world for good.More news: Microsoft's Defender ATP antivirus app for Android is now out in Preview