Astronauts for Hire is a 501(c)(3) non-profit formed in April 2010 to recruit and train qualified scientists and engineers for the rigors of spaceflight. Commonly referred to as “Astronauts4Hire” or just “A4H,” the organization conducts a range of activities related to commercial astronaut workforce development. A4H’s principal service is to train its members as professional astronaut candidates who can assist researchers, payload developers, and spaceflight providers with mission planning and operations support.

A4H Mission

To increase the competitiveness of commercial astronaut candidates by providing skills training, facilitating forums for candidate communication, engaging the space research community, and inspiring the next generation.

A4H Value Proposition

Companies such as Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace will soon carry passengers on suborbital spaceflights. These passengers will range from tourists paying for the privilege of the experience to scientists and educators carrying out experiments in the unique environment of space. While some researchers will train to fly their own experiments firsthand, many may not wish to subject themselves to the risk or liability of flying on experimental spacecraft. Also, some researchers may not be medically qualified to fly, don’t have the time or funding to undergo spaceflight training, or their expertise may be needed on the ground monitoring telemetry. For these and other reasons, there is a market for a highly-trained commercial astronaut crew service who can work with researchers and flight operators to ensure payloads fly successfully.

A4H Members

A4H is a volunteer-based membership organization. It currently consists of over 170 members. A4H Flight Members are established professionals representing a wide range of disciplines in engineering, life, and physical sciences, and are selected on a competitive basis. It is necessary to keep this group relatively small to maintain a high degree of quality control on the astronauts A4H can offer to clients but large enough to ensure sufficient diversity of skills to meet the needs of any prospective client. Several A4H Flight Members were interviewees or highly qualified applicants in recent NASA, CSA, and ESA astronaut selections.

A4H Training

Relying heavily upon an advisory team consisting of former astronauts and astronaut instructors, A4H has developed a comprehensive training program to qualify its members to serve in multiple capacities on repeated space flights and mission profiles. Safety and performance are the cornerstones of the A4H training philosophy. We have identified three primary roles that commercial astronaut crewmembers will likely be asked to fill in the foreseeable future. These include Research Specialist Astronauts (RSA), Operations Specialist Astronauts (OSAs), and Pilot Qualified Astronauts (PQAs). RSAs are analogous to NASA’s payload specialists and will be responsible for the successful operation of scientific experiments. OSAs fill the role of flight operations engineers analogous to NASA mission specialists and will be qualified to operate a variety of spacecraft systems, manage in-flight contingencies, and support a myriad of non-pilot duties as flight crew. PQAs operate the vehicle and are currently beyond the scope of A4H activities. An initial class of seven A4H members completed core RSA training elements in Summer 2011, and the first group of fully certified A4H RSAs will be announced by mid-2012.

A4H Research

A4H members serve as payload specialists who can help design/integrate payloads, conduct experiments, monitor equipment, or be test subjects. A4H has partnered with a number of academic and industry groups. These partnerships expand the training, research, and operational capabilities of the organization. A4H has already secured two contracts to carry out research on parabolic microgravity flights. In February 2011, A4H completed its first contract testing the physiological effects of alcohol absorption in microgravity. A4H will complete its second microgravity research flight through the NASA Flight Opportunities Program in May 2012. A4H has other projects at various stages of development, and expects to support research projects onboard both suborbital and orbital missions in the future.

A4H Service and Outreach

Going forward, A4H will continue to serve the needs of the scientific community through the recruitment, training, and certification of professional astronaut candidates. Simultaneously, as a Research and Education Affiliate member of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, A4H will continue to support activities that advance space education and development industry-wide. A4H is also committed to inspiring the next generation of space explorers through speaking at schools, hosting public webinars, and publishing its quarterly newsletter.

A4H Structure

Astronauts4Hire is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit incorporated in the State of Florida. Twelve officers handle the day-to-day operation of the corporation through a series of three working groups. A nine-member Board of Directors governs the organization.