Three US teams have unveiled bids for the $500 million NASA Commercial Orbital Transport­ation Services (COTS) demonstration, with initial contracts to be awarded in the third quarter. Winning bidders will be required to demonstrate Inter­national Space Station (ISS) cargo delivery and return capabilities by 2010 and ISS crew transport capability early in the next decade.

If the demonstrations are successful, NASA plans to procure commercial cargo and crew transport services to support the ISS after the Space Shuttle is retired in 2010. The three teams are led by commercial space services company Spacehab, launch provider Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and manned spacecraft developer Transformational Space (T/Space).

Spacehab has allied itself with Canadian information systems company MDA and US satellite builder Ball Aerospace & Technologies to propose its Apex transport system – a family of mission-configurable spacecraft compatible with a range of launch vehicles. “Our Apex team provides a non-Shuttle-based, end-to-end space access service,” says Spacehab president and chief executive Michael Kearney.

Source: Flight International