Spaceflight Now: Breaking News

Future launch systems could provide space station access
Posted: August 25, 2000

An artist's concept of Kistler's K-1 rocket. Photo: Kistler
NASA has awarded four small businesses 90-day contracts totaling $902,000 to develop concepts and requirements to provide access to the International Space Station on emerging launch systems.

These studies could uncover a potential backup capability, augmenting the station's primary resupply vehicles -- the U.S. Space Shuttle, Russian Progress, European Space Agency Automated Transfer Vehicle and the Japanese H-II Transfer Vehicles.

"Alternate access to Space Station is a potential market opportunity for emerging or established U.S. launch companies," said Dan Dumbacher, manager of the 2nd Generation Reusable Launch Vehicle Program Office at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, AL. "These companies will develop concepts for alternate access to the Space Station, determine what a launch service needs to do to meet the requirements, and offer suggestions on specific development risk-reduction activities, such as technology development or business planning, that we need to perform."

Companies selected are:

  • Andrews Space and Technology of El Segundo, CA, $195,000
  • Microcosm, Inc. of El Segundo, CA, $198,000
  • HMX Ltd. of Reno, NV, $245,000
  • Kistler Aerospace Corp. of Kirkland, WA, $264,000

The contingency resupply service under study would seek to be capable of launching within a week if necessary and could enhance the Space Station's operational flexibility if primary delivery methods were unavailable. Established launch services companies are studying the same idea under existing contracts managed by NASA's Kennedy Space Center, FL.

"This potential alternate means of transportation could help us meet our commitments to the Station," Dumbacher said.

The study contracts, set aside for small business, are managed by Marshall under the Alternate Access Project of the Space Launch Initiative. Marshall is NASA's lead center for space transportation systems development.