WASHINGTON, 21 August 2006: NASA has outsourced the development of the next generation of cargo spaceships intended to service the International Space Station (ISS) from 2010. It is the first time NASA has commissioned the development and manufacture of spacecraft that will not be owned by the government, and represents the first steps in developing a commercial space industry.
NASA has allocated a portion of its US$500 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) budget to two private companies, Rocketplane-Kistler, based in Oklahoma, and SpaceX, based in California, to develop and demonstrate cargo delivery services.
“NASA is proud to work with SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler as they endeavour to take American entrepreneurial spirit to new heights,” said NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate associate administrator Scott Horowitz. “When commercial enterprises turn the journey to low-Earth orbit into a profit-making business model, NASA will be free to focus on goals that are more appropriate for government, such as exploration of the Moon and Mars.”
Both companies will demonstrate the capabilities in cargo and, optionally, crew delivery, over the next three years with their performance being evaluated by NASA and government experts.
Once the capabilities are demonstrated, NASA plans to purchase spacecraft to service the IIS in Phase 2 of the program.
SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler were selected from amongst 20 applicants in a competitive process.
SpaceX was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, co-founder of the online payment system, PayPal. The company is developing a family of light, medium and heavy lift rockets for a range of purposes, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous orbit and planetary missions.
Rocketplane-Kistler is developing the reusable K-1 rocket, which will be launched from Woomera in South Australia.