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NASA to Open New Competition for Space Transportation Seed Money

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Thu Oct 18, 2007 6:54 pm
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WASHINGTON, (NASA) – 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:
http://www.nasa.gov/directorates/esmd/ccc

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