SpaceX Earns $5 Million by Completing COTS Cargo-loading Demo

WASHINGTON — Area Exploration Applied sciences (SpaceX) loaded its Dragon area capsule with simulated cargo and powered up the spacecraft in mid-December, incomes a $5 million payout underneath its Industrial Orbital Transportation Companies (COTS) settlement with NASA.

SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin mentioned NASA officers had been available on the firm’s Hawthorne, Calif., headquarters the week of Dec. 14 to watch the demonstration.

SpaceX and Dulles, Va.-based Orbital Sciences Corp. had been awarded NASA contracts in December 2008 price a mixed $3.5 billion to haul cargo to the worldwide area station as soon as the area shuttle is retired from service.

SpaceX is growing the reusable Dragon capsule and its Falcon 9 launcher with the help of $278 million in NASA funding the corporate is eligible to obtain underneath a COTS settlement that ties money funds to the completion of particular growth milestones, together with three separate flight demonstrations.

Up to now, SpaceX has accomplished 16 of its 22 COTS milestones, incomes a complete of $248 million.

However with the Falcon 9 rocket nonetheless no less than a few months from making a launch debut as soon as deliberate for 2007, SpaceX omitted 4 flight-related milestones to conduct the cargo loading demonstration.

NASA spokeswoman Ashley Edwards mentioned COTS suppliers are permitted to finish milestones out of sequence and nonetheless receives a commission.

“Completion of previous milestones just isn’t required for fee of a milestone accomplished out of sequence,” Edwards mentioned. “In response to the phrases of our COTS Area Act Agreements, NASA could make a milestone fee when it’s happy that the success standards for that milestone has been met.”

SpaceX initially envisioned conducting final month’s cargo-loading demonstration between Dragon’s second and third COTS flights. Whereas each these flights stay on the SpaceX manifest for 2010, the corporate has but to announce agency launch dates for the Falcon 9 inaugural flight and the primary COTS flight. SpaceX Chief Govt Elon Musk mentioned Jan. 4 that Falcon 9’s maiden launch was on observe for someday between the tip of February and the start of Could. Though SpaceX says it should embody a Dragon capsule on Falcon 9’s debut, the launch won’t rely as a COTS flight.

With the cargo-loading milestone now accomplished, SpaceX can earn no extra COTS cash till it is able to deal with three flight demos price a mixed $30 million, together with $5 million for every flight readiness evaluate required earlier than every mission.

In the meantime, Orbital Sciences is greater than a yr away from demonstrating its Cygnus cargo automobile, which can launch atop a Taurus 2 rocket additionally nonetheless in growth.

Orbital received its $171 million COTS award 16 months after SpaceX and needed to renegotiate the settlement in March 2009 to reveal a special cargo functionality than NASA initially requested. That helped delay the maiden flight of Cygnus and its Taurus 2 medium-lift rocket from December 2010 to the tip of March 2011.

Though the corporate is a number of months behind in assembly a crucial design evaluate milestone for Cygnus and Taurus 2, Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski mentioned the corporate expects to finish the milestone by the tip of February, at which level the corporate could have collected $140 million in COTS payouts from NASA. Beneski mentioned Orbital handed its thirteenth milestone in September, a security evaluate price $10 million.

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