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Astrotech Corp. Message Board

  • marsavian marsavian Oct 18, 2007 3:23 PM Flag

    NASA to Open New Competition for Space Transportation Seed Money

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    • Marsavian...I have been watching you follow SPAB for a long time now. Given that SPAB didn't make the first COTS cut, what do you think the chances of them getting the $$$ this time? Also, do you think the dropping of the lawsuit against NASA will play a roll in them getting the deal. Not that it should, but let's not be naive about what happens behind closed doors. I expect SPAB stock to move up if they issue PR that they are going for COTS again.

      Appreciate your comments.

      • 2 Replies to weege2
      • I didn't address your lawsuit politics issue before as these things are pretty hard to quantify unless you know what happens behind closed doors and I wanted to keep my first reply factual. However *IF* politics does play an issue in these matters then Spacehab is well placed considering it's not only dropped the lawsuit but wants to make proactive use of the ISS. Politics wise we tick all the right boxes now ;-).

      • I personally would put the odds as

        1) Spacedev 40%
        2) Spacehab 35%
        3) the rest 25%

        Right, now the explanations ...

        1) Spacedev just have to start favorite being a photo-finish 3rd last time. However against them must stand the following points :-

        a) They wanted more money than RpK last time, $250m for a $500m Dreamchaser which means they have to still find $325m
        even if they get this award which is a tall ask.

        b) It was considered a complex project by NASA and it is as they have to take a NASA design study (HL-20) and turn it into a reusable spaceplane which can fly/glide back to base. If you have been following the Shuttle's life you know that returnable spaceplanes are very hard to do.

        c) It was said to take longer to do than K-1 and a year has passed and all they have done is studies to show you could launch it on an Atlas V which is not real development.

        d) Its payload is under 2mT which means it will be guaranteed to end up more expensive than Falcon 9/Dragon launching on an Atlas V.

        e) In its favor it is designed to do both crew and cargo from the off. However NASA have a natural aversion to any project that leads to a man-rated EELV which could potentially rival Ares I and Dreamchaser would lead to that.

        In conclusion I don't think it's a particularly well suited or efficient COTS cargo vehicle but on the other hand I think it's probably the best mooted tourist orbital spaceplane concept and should really be developed and marketed as such. If it's eventually proven safe to fly it should be a good COTS crew vehicle too.

        2) Spacehab's ARCTUS is the cheapest quickest and least complex design out there. It's basically a rejigged Centaur upper stage and is basically an integration exercise on existing space rated parts. It can fly before 2010 and will cost under $200m to build. Also it can fly on any Delta IV or Atlas V which gives it unrivalled maximum flexibility as an EELV cargo ship and a fighting chance to rival Dragon for price efficiency in some mission payloads.

        The parts of its design that are new is the inflatable heat shield but if that doesn't work it's no big deal as upmass is the important part of COTS although it would be detrimental to on-orbit manufacturing if it didn't. There is also no crew version specified or planned yet. So boringly efficient but that didn't cut it for Apex either last time but NASA maybe less in a mood to gamble this time and may want a solid banker to back up SpaceX.

        3) The rest ... ULA have a problem in that NASA almost see COTS as a chance to get cheaper rivals to them which led to SpaceX and RpK in the first place. NASA also don't want to support HTV or ATV if they can help it or manrating an EELV. This kind of limits ULA as a backup vehicle to Arctus or CSI or a cargo Dreamchaser unless they do a cargo capsule themselves which is always possible.

        CSI have probably the simplest concept (cargo cannister tug) but it is dependent on Russian Progress being used as tugs. However this entity has done nothing more than produce the same studies for years and I'm not sure if there is any substance to the company.

        T-Space has a rocket plane (based on another NASA study) which is launched under a jet airliner. The concept has been proved to some extent with Orbital's Pegasus but only as a launcher. The cargo load is low but it does seem to me a pretty safe way to launch crew out to orbit if they get the rocketplane working safely but again easier said than done.

        Andrews put in a capsule on top of an Ares I last time and also joined RpK's effort so I'm not sure how their credibility has been hurt by these stances as Ares I won't be here until 2015 and they said K-1 did not need much work to finish !

        PlanetSpace are canadian which is a bit of a no-no and are planning to ressurrect Novas and V2s so nuff said !

    • RELEASE: 07-228

      NASA to Open New Competition for Space Transportation Seed Money

      WASHINGTON - NASA announced Thursday it will conduct a new competition for funding that remains in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project, known as COTS.

      The new competition follows NASA's decision to terminate its funded agreement with aerospace firm Rocketplane Kistler of Oklahoma City, which repeatedly failed to meet agreed-upon milestones in its effort to develop and demonstrate commercial transportation capabilities to low Earth orbit. NASA informed Rocketplane Kistler Thursday of its decision in a letter signed by Associate Administrator for Exploration Systems Rick Gilbrech.

      "NASA remains fully committed to the COTS Project," said Alan Lindenmoyer, who as manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office oversees the COTS Project.

      "We'll be releasing a synopsis for the new competition Friday and the full announcement for a new round of industry proposals on Monday."

      Companies will have 30 days to respond to Monday's announcement, and NASA intends to enter into one or more new COTS agreements early next year. Companies that are U.S. commercial providers, as defined in the Commercial Space Act, will be eligible.

      COTS provides seed money to companies when they reach performance milestones to help them design and develop space transportation capabilities that could pave the way for private cargo deliveries to the International Space Station. Of the $206.8 million NASA agreed to invest in Rocketplane Kistler, the company received a total of $32.1 million. The remaining $174.7 million will be offered to aerospace firms in a new competition.

      "A vibrant commercial space industry will help NASA fulfill its promise to support the International Space Station, retire the space shuttle and return humans to the moon," Lindenmoyer said.

      In 2006, NASA chose two companies to receive COTS funding: Rocketplane Kistler and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX, of El Segundo, Calif. Both companies signed Space Act Agreements with the agency that detailed mutually agreed-upon financial and technical milestones, as well as a payment schedule based on those requirements.

      In late May, Rocketplane Kistler missed the fourth milestone, a second round of private financing, in its COTS agreement. After months of discussions with the company, NASA officially notified Rocketplane Kistler in early September of its failure to perform. The agency decided to terminate the Rocketplane Kistler agreement when, after careful consideration, NASA concluded that further efforts were not in the agency's best interest. NASA followed the process for termination that was spelled out in the Space Act Agreement.

      NASA's other funded COTS partner, SpaceX, is current on all of its financial and technical milestones. NASA also has unfunded COTS agreements with five other companies.

      For more information on NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, visit:

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