Setback for RpK?

On the same day that Taylor Dinerman wrote glowingly on the future prospects of Rocketplane Kistler (RpK) after the company won a COTS award from NASA last month to help finish development of the K-1, Space News reports that a key member of the RpK team, Orbital Sciences Corporation, has pulled out [subscription required]. Orbital was going to manage the K-1 development program and kick in $10 million towards the vehicle’s development, but an Orbital spokesman said that the company could not agree “on all the elements of the business plan so we will not be part of the program going forward.” How big a blow this is to RpK and K-1 project isn’t clear yet; RpK officials were not quoted in the article. Certainly there will be at least some degree of scrambling to develop a new project management plan, as well as reassure potential investors and NASA.

Update 7pm: RpK president Randy Brinkley tells Space News that the company has found a new partner willing to take over for Orbital, including investing at least $10 million into the venture. Brinkley said that their partnership with Orbital unraveled after Orbital reportedly wanted to make design changes to the K-1 that RpK found unacceptable. Who the new partner is, and what those design changes were, has not been disclosed.

1 comment to Setback for RpK?

  • It’s my suspician that a good part of the reason Kistler won was the presence of Orbital Sciences, Aerojet, and Lockheed Martin on their team. It gave them credibility with NASA, and presumably with potential investors.

    While this cannot be interpreted as good news, I would note that Lockheed can undoubtedly do the work that Orbital would have done.\

    — Donald

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