Orbital Sciences has joined the Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) team bidding for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration programme, and will invest $10 million in the company if its bid is successful.

A downselect from six bidders to an as-yet unknown number of participants is expected in the second half of August. The COTS programme could provide up to $500 million in funding by 2010 to enable participating teams to develop cargo delivery systems for the International Space Station (ISS).

Under the RpK deal, Orbital will have a supporting responsibility for programme management, systems integration, launch operations, and safety and mission assurance. "Orbital Sciences put in an original bid, one of 20, but we were not selected," the company says.

RpK is offering to develop its planned fully reusable two-stage Kistler-1 rocket for cargo delivery. In May RpK signed a letter of intent with Alcatel Alenia Spazio North America to jointly develop pressurised and unpressurised cargo modules for the K-1 system.

Other COTS finalists are Andrews Space, SpaceDev, Spacehab, Space Exploration Technologies and Trans­formational Space. A second phase could see a crew transport system developed in the next decade.

Source: Flight International