Spacehab aims for August 2010 ARCTUS demo flight

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US space services company Spacehab hopes an August 2010 flight will demonstrate its ability to meet NASA's requirements for its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) phase two International Space Station resupply contract. The flight could occur if Spacehab wins the COTS phase one space act agreement (SAA) competition now underway, and expected to see NASA select a company for the funded SAA in February.

If selected and if successful in its 2010 flight for the $175 million phase one, which is intended to demonstrate a cargo and possibly crew transportation system, an ISS resupply contract could follow. If it secures that, Spacehab envisages a first commercial cargo flight in June 2011. NASA requires a demonstration flight prior to a resupply mission under its phase two ISS contract that would be for space station cargo, and even crew transportation, from 2011. The August 2010 launch could be considered as that demo flight.

 spacehab
 Above: Spacehab's cargo vehicle, the Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilisation Spacecraft (ARCTUS)
Spacehab's cargo vehicle, the Advanced Research and Conventional Technology Utilisation Spacecraft (ARCTUS), is derived from components from Lockheed's Centaur upper-stage and would be launched on a Lockheed Martin Atlas V rocket in a 401 configuration, which has a 4m (13.1ft) fairing, no solid rocket boosters and one Centaur upper stage. However there is also the option of using a 5m fairing-adorned Atlas V.

The ARCTUS will also use a "standard interface plane" enabling it to be fitted to any 4 or 5m-class commercially available vehicle. Spacehab has also planned for an SAA that is not the full $175 million that has been on offer.

"With three flights a year we can meet the ISS manifest. We could do this even with just a portion of the money," says Spacehab's ARCTUS chief engineer, Michael Johnson, referring to wording in NASA's COTS announcement that does not guarantee the full sum available to any one SAA recipient.

As part of its risk reduction work Spacehab is arranging for an ARCTUS sensor to be flown on NASA's Space Shuttle mission STS-130, planned for October 2009 - before its COTS demonstration flight.

Spacehab had been a recipient of a NASA unfunded SAA and on 19 November the company announced it had completed a systems requirements review milestone for ARCTUS under that agreement.

See more images of ARCTUS via Rob Coppinger's Hyperbola blog