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NASA terminates Rocketplane Kistler's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration space act agreement

NASA has announced the formal termination of Rocketplane Kistler's (RpK) involvement in its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration programme ten-days after the end of a 30-day minimum notification period that began with a letter sent to RpK on 7 September by the US space agency's then exploration systems mission associate administrator and former astronaut Scott "Doc" Horowitz.

 Above: A Kistler-1 rocket launch complex concept
The termination brings to an end a 14-month process that was brought to a close by RpK's failure to meet two milestons, Milestone four, a second round of private fundraising; and Milestone five, a critical design review for its pressurised cargo module.

Following a competitive process Rocketplane Kistler had been selected, along with California based-Space Exploration Technologies, in August last year to participate in COTS, which is a public private partnership to develop and demonstrate, by 2010, cargo transportation systems for the International Space Station (ISS). Once demonstrated a successful system developer could bid for ISS re-supply contracts for the next decade.

After receiving NASA's notification letter RpK responded with a letter that was leaked to the media criticising the agency and insinuating the COTS loser would take legal action because it claimed the agency had indirectly caused some of the company's financing difficulties. 

Since the NASA notification letter was sent Horowitz has been succeeded by Richard Gilbrech, previously the director of NASA's Stennis Space Center and RpK president Randy Brinkley has resigned.

Flight technical reporter Rob Coppinger's blog Hyperbola confirmed internet rumours about the departure of Brinkley. Coppinger also foresaw the departure of RpK from COTS in this Flight International blog entry. Watch a video of an earlier K-1 rocket design below.

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