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NASA Quietly Picking COTS Finalists

SPACEHAB's Apex vehicle is in the running for a NASA COTS program contract. Image credit: SPACEHAB
by Phil Berardelli
SpaceDaily U.S. Editor
Washington DC (SPX) May 15, 2006
NASA has been notifying selected aerospace companies they are in the running to win or share up to $500 million in agency funding to provide commercial launch and orbital services for the International Space Station.

NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation System competition, announced last year, is intended to encourage private companies to fill the expected gap in U.S. spaceflight capabilities between the space shuttle fleet's retirement - currently scheduled for 2010 - and the onset of its replacement, the Apollo-capsule styled crew exploration vehicle.

So far, two companies - SPACEHAB and SpaceDev - have disclosed they have been picked as program finalists by NASA, but the agency itself is not naming names or confirming how many finalists it has selected. Unofficial reports have placed the number at six.

"We told the companies that NASA would not release their names - that they were welcome to do so," James W. Bailey, the agency's COTS program contract officer, told SpaceDaily.com. "We told them we would stay out of it. It's their business. NASA won't get involved."

Bailey did say NASA was "very pleased" about the quality of the COTS proposals the agency had received, and officials had performed "detailed analyses" of the proposals, but the agency will not make any formal announcement about COTS awards until late summer or early fall.

"We anticipate signing more than one Space Act agreement," he noted.

SPACEHAB, of Houston, said last Wednesday it had been informed by NASA it was a COTS finalist, based on its proposal to provide space-access capability via a project called Apex, along with associated integration, operations and mission-management services.

Apex spacecraft, scheduled for a demonstration flight in 2009, would ferry equipment and other payloads into orbit, rendezvous with the space station, and dispose of or return equipment and experiments to Earth. The vehicle also would evolve a human-crew configuration following the shuttle's retirement, SPACEHAB said in a statement.

SpaceDev, of Poway, Calif., said Monday it had received NASA notification it is a COTS finalist.

SpaceDev has specialized in the development of micro- and nano-satellites, hybrid rocket-based orbital maneuvering and orbital transfer vehicles, and sub-orbital and orbital hybrid rocket-based propulsion systems.

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Orbital Awarded Contract for Definition of Hybrid Launch Vehicle Architectures
Dulles VA (SPX) May 15, 2006
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced today that it has been awarded a research and development contract by the U.S. Air Force for the Hybrid Launch Vehicle (HLV) Studies and Analysis Program.

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