NASA/COTS contracts – two winners

by Chris Bergin

NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS contracts have been awared to SpaceX and RP Kistler.

The six finalists, Andrews Space, Rocketplane Kistler, Space Dev, Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX, SPACEHAB and Transformational Space Corporation were all in the running for the deal that may also include future manned access to the ISS.

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NASA and the two companies signed Space Act Agreements that establish milestones and objective criteria to assess their progress throughout Phase 1 of the competition. Once a capability is demonstrated,

NASA plans to purchase crew and cargo delivery services competitively in Phase 2.

‘NASA is proud to work with SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler as they endeavor to take American entrepreneurial spirit to new heights,’ said NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate Associate Administrator Scott ‘Doc’ Horowitz.

‘When commercial enterprises turn the journey to low-Earth orbit into a profit-making business model, NASA will be free to focus on goals that are more appropriate for government, such as exploration of the moon and Mars.’

In Phase 1, the companies will demonstrate a combination of four capabilities: external (unpressurized) cargo delivery and disposal; internal (pressurized) cargo delivery and disposal; internal cargo delivery and return; and an option for crew transportation.

‘These companies were selected from a total of 20 applicants, based on solid engineering of innovative concepts and sound business plans,’ said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at the Johnson Space Center, Houston. 

George French, RpK’s CEO and Chairman of the Board said, ‘We are honored by NASA’s selection, and for the opportunity to demonstrate our capabilities. The International Space Station is already a national and global asset.

‘Commercializing ISS servicing multiplies its usefulness – maintaining a premier research facility, and stimulating space enterprise in Low Earth Orbit.’ French said.

‘We were impressed by the thorough technical and financial due diligence by the Crew and Cargo Transportation Office [at Johnson Space Flight Center]. They scrubbed us and twenty-three other competitors to ensure NASA would gain a viable commercial company that could supply reliable delivery of cargo to space.’

COTS demonstration flights will be conducted under a Space Act Agreement whereby Rocketplane Kistler will raise private funds to supplement NASA funding. RpK is already well along in first round financing, and will proceed with further financing rounds as the program progresses.

The demonstration program will be followed by a competition to provide operational services to the ISS.

RpK President Randy Brinkley, former NASA manager for the ISS Program, said, ‘With Space Shuttle retirement, the commercialization of ISS servicing is a logical step to maintaining the Space Station and achieving NASA’s broader goals. We are committed to providing end-to-end services for NASA and the ISS.’

RpK leads a team that includes Orbital Sciences, ORBITEC, Lockheed Martin, Aerojet, Alenia Spazio, Oceaneering, Draper, Irvin Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, and other world class aerospace firms. RpK will establish a Houston office to support its COTS effort. **Lockheed/MAF related article**

Rocketplane Kistler’s K-1 launch system will also provide low cost space access for satellites and research payloads. Coupled with the company’s suborbital XP Spaceplane, RpK is positioned to provide a wide diversity of suborbital and orbital space transportation services.

The K-1’s hardware is 75 percent complete, and is scheduled for first flight in 2008. The XP Spaceplane is 50 percent complete, and scheduled for first flight in late 2008.

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