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NASA awards COTS grant for cargo spaceship

By Doug Messier
Parabolic Arc
February 19, 2008
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And the winner is….Orbital Science Corporation. NASA awarded the Dulles, Virginia-based company $171 million under its COTS program to build and demonstrate a launch system capable of delivering cargo to the international space station.

The COTS program is designed stimulating private development for vehicles capable of transporting cargo and crews to ISS. Orbital Sciences joins SpaceX of El Segundo, California, which is also developing a rocket and vehicle under COTS.

The three-year agreement calls for the development of:

  • Taurus II, a new medium-class launch vehicle
  • Cygnus, an advanced maneuvering spacecraft
  • Several interchangeable modules for pressurized and unpressurized cargo.

NASA awarded the funding after ending a similar agreement with Rocketplane Kistler. The Oklahoma-based company failed to come up with a half billion dollar in private funding to supplement its NASA award.

There had been a lot of media coverage. Below is a sampling of useful links:

NASA awards grant for cargo spaceship: MSNBC (via Brian Berger,

Orbital Will Develop Craft With NASA: Associate Press via Forbes

NASA backs private firm to help supply space station: Houston Chronicle

Orbital Sciences COTS Homepage (with illustrations)

NASA Partners With Orbital Sciences for Space Transport Services: NASA Press Release via PR News Wire

One of the unsuccessful bidders was Chicago-based PlanetSpace, which had been hoping to use the money to jump start efforts to build a commercial spaceport on Cape Breton in Nova Scotia. Canadian Press has an update.

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