Discuss as:

Back in the game

— It's been only a few days since Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. acknowledged that they had irreconcilable differences over the development of the Kistler K-1 rocket as a system to deliver supplies and even people to the international space station. That meant Rocketplane Kistler was in the market for a new strategic partner to help manage the $207 million that the company won through NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, or COTS. It turns out that the new partner is one of the companies that competed unsuccessfully for its own share of COTS money: Seattle-based Andrews Space.

In a jointly issued news release, the two companies say Andrews will have "supporting responsibility for systems engineering and integration, and safety and mission assurance." David Little, Andrews' senior vice president, will be deputy program manager for the K-1 program.

Andrews will also make a "strategic investment" in Rocketplane Kistler. Earlier in the week, Rocketplane Kistler's president, Randy Brinkley, told Space News that the investment would be at least as large as the $10 million that Orbital had been expected to provide.

Andrews' president, Jason Andrews, said he was convinced that the K-1 could be operational "in a relatively short period of time," and Rocketplane Kistler said service to the space station could begin as early as 2009. 

SpaceX is the other COTS beneficiary, with $278 million due to come from NASA. Neither corporate team will get all that money at once; rather, it will be paid out as the teams reach milestones leading to demonstration flights in 2009-2010 time frame.

In addition to Andrews, the other unsuccessful finalists in the COTS competition were SpaceDev (which is now in the midst of a new private-spaceship deal), Spacehab and Transformational Space.