NASA Gives Rocketplane Kistler Termination Notice
A Rocketplane Kistler K-1 cargo vehicle bears down on the International Space Station in this artist's illustration.
Credit: Rocketplane Kistler.

WASHINGTON ? NASA formally notified Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) Sept. 7 that it is 30 days away from having its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement terminated for failure to live up to the terms of the deal.

The Oklahoma City-based firm was one of two companies NASA selected in August 2006 to split $500 million in public funds to help build and demonstrate competing launch systems capable of delivering cargo to the International Space Station. The other company was El Segundo, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies. NASA made the COTS money contingent on meeting periodic technical and financial milestones.

RpK has struggled since the beginning of the COTS program to raise the money it needs to complete development of the K-1 reusable rocket and conduct a series of confidence-building flight demonstrations. In May, RpK missed a deadline for showing NASA that it had secured all $500 million in private financing the company has said it needs for the project.

NASA at the time said it was willing to give RpK more time to secure the private financing. The company since has missed at least one self-imposed deadline for raising the money.

NASA spokeswoman Melissa Mathews said the U.S. space agency formally notified RpK Sept. 7 ?that the company has failed to perform under its Space Act Agreement? and is in jeopardy of having its COTS agreement terminated. The notice was given in the form of a letter signed by Scott Horowitz, NASA associate administrator for exploration systems.

Mathews said the COTS agreement requires NASA to provide such notice at least 30 days in advance of terminating the agreement for ?failure to perform,? such as missing agreed-upon milestones.

?NASA has not terminated its relationship with RpK and has not finalized a decision whether to do so,? she said.

RpK President Randy Brinkley did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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