42 U.S. Code § 18382 - Suborbital research activities
(a) In general
The report of the National Academy of Sciences, Revitalizing NASA’s Suborbital Program: Advancing Science, Driving Innovation and Developing Workforce, found that suborbital science missions were absolutely critical to building an aerospace workforce capable of meeting the needs of current and future human and robotic space exploration.
The Administrator shall designate an officer or employee of the Science Mission Directorate to act as the responsible official for all Suborbital Research in the Science Mission Directorate. The designee shall be responsible for the development of short- and long term strategic plans for maintaining, renewing and extending suborbital facilities and capabilities, monitoring progress towards goals in the plans, and be responsible for integration of suborbital activities and workforce development within the agency, thereby ensuring the long term recognition of their combined value to the directorate, to NASA, and to the Nation.
(c) Establishment of Suborbital Research Program
The Administrator shall establish a Suborbital Research Program within the Science Mission Directorate that shall include the use of sounding rockets, aircraft, high altitude balloons, suborbital reusable launch vehicles, and commercial launch vehicles to advance science and train the next generation of scientists and engineers in systems engineering and systems integration which are vital to maintaining critical skills in the aerospace workforce. The program shall integrate existing suborbital research programs with orbital missions at the discretion of the designated officer or employee and shall emphasize the participation of undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral researchers when formulating announcements of opportunity.
The Administrator shall report to the appropriate committees of Congress on the number and type of suborbital missions conducted in each fiscal year and the number of undergraduate and graduate students participating in the missions. The report shall be made annually for each fiscal year under this section.