NASA Partners With Orbital Sciences for Space Transport Services
WASHINGTON - NASA selected Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., to develop and demonstrate commercial orbital transportation services that could open new markets and pave the way for contracts to launch and deliver crew and cargo to the International Space Station.
NASA and Orbital Sciences signed a funded Space Act Agreement under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Project, known as COTS. The new partner will receive approximately $170 million in federal funds to supplement its privately-funded efforts.
Through COTS, NASA is facilitating U.S. private industry development of reliable, cost- effective access to low Earth orbit. The intent is to create a market environment in which commercial space transportation services are available to government and private sector customers.
“NASA plans to get out of low Earth orbit and focus on going back to the moon to prepare explorers for a future voyage to Mars,” said Rick Gilbrech, associate administrator for NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, Washington. “Being able to buy safe, reliable and economical service to low Earth orbit will help us achieve our national goals.”
The selection of Orbital Sciences brings to seven the number of partners in which NASA is investing through COTS. NASA selected SpaceX of El Segundo, Calif., as a partner in August 2006. NASA is partnering with an additional five companies through unfunded agreements.
NASA is providing approximately $500 million to stimulate the commercial space transportation market and help develop safe, reliable and cost-effective access to and from low Earth orbit.
“Our investment in the space transportation industry holds just as much promise for the future as government’s investment in the railroads and airlines produced in the past,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program Office at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston. “Like any wise investor would, we chose a transportation provider whose innovative concept is based on solid engineering and a sound business plan.”
The Space Act Agreement establishes milestones and objective criteria to assess the company’s progress throughout Phase 1 of the COTS Project. Partners with funded agreements receive payment for achieving agreed-upon milestones.
In Phase 1, companies will demonstrate one or more of four capabilities: external, unpressurized cargo delivery and disposal; internal, pressurized cargo delivery and disposal; internal, pressurized cargo delivery and return; and an option for crew transportation. NASA plans to purchase cargo resupply services competitively in Phase 2.
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