Two companies that are receiving NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services funds achieved significant milestones this month in their efforts to develop and demonstrate space cargo launch and delivery systems.
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) completed a preliminary design review for its first orbital demonstration mission. Rocketplane Kistler completed a system requirements review for its cargo services system.
The two companies want to offer commercial delivery services for cargo, and possibly crews, to the International Space Station in the future. In August 2006, NASA and the companies signed Space Act Agreements that established a series of milestones and criteria for assessing progress toward their individual goals.
‘These milestones demonstrate genuine progress toward a new way of doing business for NASA and pave the way for the commercial purchase of transportation services needed to maintain the International Space Station,’ said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston. ‘If these companies can continue this rapid pace, the first demonstration launches are right around the corner.’
On February 8 SpaceX, of
On February 6, Rocketplane Kistler of
The requirements review was the third of numerous milestones NASA will use to measure the company’s progress toward a full demonstration of its launch capability. Both the first and second stages completed critical design reviews before Rocketplane Kistler joined the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project. Those vehicle components are being transported to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in
Rocketplane Kistler achieved its first two program milestones, completion of a program implementation plan and an initial round of private financing, in September and November 2006, respectively. Preliminary and critical design reviews of a new cargo module are planned later this year.
SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler both won a 2006 competition to share up to $485m in NASA funding to help finance their activities.
Earlier in February, NASA signed unfunded agreements to work with two other companies with similar goals – Transformational Space Corp. (t/Space) of
The overarching goals of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program are to stimulate commercial enterprises in space; facilitate US private industry development of reliable, cost-effective access to low-Earth orbit; and create a market environment in which commercial space transportation services are available to government and private customers.
Once industry has demonstrated safe and reliable capabilities, NASA may choose to purchase transportation services from commercial providers to support the International Space Station under a second phase of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project.