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Tangled rocket teams

Transformational Space, or t/Space for short, today announced that it has added Ball Aerospace to its team in the competition to build a low-cost replacement for the space shuttle. The announcement serves as another example of the interlocking alliances being made to pursue the $500 million offered through NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, or COTS.

Other new t/Space teammates include Near Earth LLC as the consortium's investment banker; and Lon Levin, the co-founder of XM Satellite Radio, as a strategic adviser (PDF biography).

Ball Aerospace's presence on the team - with the role of providing control hardware and software for t/Space's proposed spaceship - follows a trend in which the same companies appear as supporting players on competing teams. Ball also shows up on the lineup for Spacehab, which is fielding its own COTS proposal.

Among other examples, McDonald Detwiler & Associates. the Canadian company that built the robot arms for the space shuttle and the international space station, is on the Spacehab team as well as SpaceX's team. In fact, Spacehab has also been listed as a player on SpaceX's team. Such arrangements let aerospace companies hedge their bets.