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NASA Buys Microgravity Flights From Zero-G

WASHINGTON— NASA awarded Zero Gravity Corp. a $4.7 million, one-year contract to conductparabolic flights aboard its specially modified Boeing 727 jetliner to providebrief periods of weightlessness for agency experiments and personnel.

Since 2004,Las Vegas-based ZeroGravity Corp., or Zero-G, has been using the its G-Force One aircraft toprovide the weightless experience to paying customers including physicistStephen Hawking and domestic-living maven Martha Stewart.

The NASAcontract, announced Jan. 2, could be worth as much as $25.4 million if theagency exercises all four one-year options.

NASA plansto use the flights, departing primarily from the agency?s Johnson Space Centerin Houston and Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, to conduct a variety ofmicrogravity experiments and help prepare astronauts for flights on the spaceshuttle and International Space Station, the agency said in a release.

Zero-Gsubmitted a bid for the flight contract last year after NASA said it waslooking for alternatives to operating its own parabolic aircraft, as it hasdone for decades.

NASA plansto continue to conduct microgravity flights aboard its own C-9 aircraft for thetime being, agency spokeswoman Tabatha Thompson said. She said the Zero-Gflights would complement NASA?s in-house capability.

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