|Tuesday / 29 August 2006|
NASA Makes Safe Bet Going With 'Ailing' Firms as COTS Winners. Although most media have focused on the fact Rocketplane Kistler's (RpK) COTS plan was formerly bankrupt and that SpaceX's maiden launch in March crashed, NASA made the safest choice for its COTS Demonstrations Program. That's because RpK and SpaceX have more hardware than any of the other COTS competitors, by far. NASA can realistically expect them to deliver cargo to the ISS before 2010. Also, each firm is self-supported and was heading in a direction to supply orbital space access without government help. SkyCorp Founder Dennis Wingo is especially optimistic about the firms' chances for success because they have the ISS and the Bigelow Aerospace space stations as paying customers. The stations, together with SpaceX and RpK, may open new markets and offer a staging point to the Moon, he says. A COTS failure would set the NewSpace movement back and bolster the perception that the current American space industry model is the only way to open space, although it is slow and expensive. "The hopes of a generation of space enthusiasts ride on their success and it cannot be underestimated how high the stakes are for the NewSpace movement," says Wingo of SpaceX and RpK. If government can help by providing tax incentives, he thinks commerce could expand to where private companies are helping develop a Moonbase by 2016. SpaceX, although it has several partners, including Paragon, will do most of its work in-house to save on cost. Meanwhile, RpK has outsourced most of its COTS K-1 vehicle work to Orbital Sciences Corp, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and others. Already, a book has been released on the history of the commercial space industry: 'International Space Commerce' by Roger Handberg. Jeff Foust reviews it at www.thespacereview.com. Sources: www.space.com, http://space.com/spacenews.