NASA's Bold Plan for Private Spaceflight
By Mark Williams
Six Finalists in NASA's Effort to Launch Private Companies into Space
- Houston, TX-based Spacehab, which built modules for the space shuttle, wants to branch out with its Apex line of spacecraft.
- Andrews Space of Seattle, already in possession of an Air Force contract to refine its Hybrid Launch Vehicle, is pushing an upgraded version of the crew/cargo spaceship system it developed under three earlier NASA contracts during 2000-2003.
- Oklahoma-based Rocketplane Kistler intends to adapt its Kistler K-1 reusable launch vehicle.
- The Virginia-based t/Space consortium -- composed of AirLaunch, Constellation International, Orion Propulsion, Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute and RedZone Robotics -- claims that its Crew Transfer Vehicle (CXV) could reach orbit on a booster launched from a carrier aircraft for less than $20 million per flight.
- California-based SpaceDev, which worked on SpaceShipOne's hybrid rocket engine, is promoting its Dream Chaser, a mini-shuttle-like design that is derived from an experimental 1980s-era NASA concept, the HL-20 lifting body, and that could supposedly ferry six people or cargo to orbit, then land like an airplane.
- SpaceX, also California-based, is developing both its ambitious Falcon 9 rocket -- a fully reusable heavy-lift launcher -- and its reusable Dragon capsule for cargo and crew.