Last month’s NASA-Roskosmos contract for ISS resupply attracted criticism from some corners of the entrepreneurial space industry, concerned that the contract might be seen as undermining the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) effort. Later last month came a claim that the contract undermined one COTS company’s efforts at raising private capital, raising questions about that company’s future.
At the Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee (COMSTAC) meeting at FAA Headquarters last Friday, Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for space operations, went to great lengths to indicate that NASA was not only still planning to use, but was heavily counting on, commercial launch services to resupply the ISS after the shuttle’s retirement. Even when taking Progress, ATV, and HTV flights into account, Gerstenmaier said there would be a cargo shortfall of at least 48.8 metric tons from FY2010 through 2015. “That’s what we’re talking about as available, potentially, to the domestic market,” he said. The Russian cargo services NASA has procured in 2010 and 2011 are the bare minimum of what’s needed to keep the station alive, he added. “It’s not a sustainable station in that sense,” he said. “The station will not deorbit” in that scenario, but without additional cargo deliveries “it will not have any operational capability or ability to do much research.”
(Gerstenmaier’s slides from his presentation should be posted here in the near future.)