WASHINGTON - The majority owner of RocketplaneLimited, Inc., an Oklahoma City, Okla.-based company building a reusable spaceplane for the suborbital tourism market, is adding Kistler Aerospace to hisportfolio and initially intends to use its design for a reusable orbitalvehicle to compete for business from NASA such as delivering supplies to theinternational space station.
Rocketplane CEO andPresident George French said in a telephone interview Feb. 25 that Kistler waspurchased for an undisclosed price and that he is now the majority owner ofboth Rocketplane and Kistler.
French, who was an earlyinvestor in Kistler when it was started more than a decade ago, described it asan established company with mature engineering designs, and a substantialamount of hardware that has already been manufactured at several sites aroundthe United States including parts built by Northrop Grumman and LockheedMartin. He said Kistler, which hadraised more than $600 million in financing before filing for Chapter 11bankruptcy protection in 2003, has solid technology but that the company wasunable to get to the flight stage because of financing problems that aroseafter the late 1990s financial crisis in Asia that affected some of itsinvestors and the impact of the Sept 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on financialmarkets.
"Regrettably, they nevermade it, but they were close," French said.
Kistler emerged frombankruptcy proceedings in 2005. At that time the company said the Kistler K-1reusable launch vehicle was 75 percent complete and that it would set about thetask of raising the money needed to finish it. In September, however, Kistler'smajor investor Bay Harbour Management decided to reduce itsfunding of the company and reduce staff.
French said Kistlerstill has about a dozen employees key to the project on its payroll and thattheir operations and the company headquarters will be shifted to Oklahoma City from Kirkland, Washington.
French declined to say how much he paid for Kistler or whenhe expected the K-1 to fly. One of his first plans for Kistler though is tosubmit a proposal for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, Frenchsaid.
Beyond that French said the addition of an orbital vehicle -one of the key goals mentioned prominently on Rocketplane'sweb site -gives the company a strong foundation in the future of commercialspaceflight.