By now you’ve probably heard that NASA has shortlisted a half-dozen companies (that we know about, at least) for further consideration in its Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) program for ISS resupply. According to MSNBC and other sources, the six companies that got the nod from NASA are Andrews Space, Rocketplane Kistler, SpaceDev, SPACEHAB, SpaceX, and t/Space. (SPACEHAB is the only one of the six to formally confirm the selection in a press release as of early this morning.) Final selections are expected some time this summer.
What does this mean for commercial space tourism? A majority of the companies listed above have suggested, if not openly stated, that they plan to develop passenger vehicles to serve markets beyond ferrying crews to and from ISS. Both Rocketplane and SpaceX have stated that they plan to develop their manned vehicles regardless of COTS; getting a COTS contract would simply accelerate the process. T/Space has talked about the market for space tourists using its CXV vehicle in past conference presentations, while SpaceDev is also looking beyond just ferrying astronauts. What’s less clear is what orbital tourism plans, if any, Andrews and SPACEHAB have: SPACEHAB makes no mention of passenger services in its press release while Andrews remains tight-lipped about its plans.