NASA announced yesterday that it has signed Space Act agreements with PlanetSpace and t/Space, two companies that competed for COTS awards last year but failed to win any money. The agreements provide neither company with any money, but do involve the sharing of information and the creation of “milestones and objective criteria by which the companies can gauge their own progress”, according to the statement.
T/Space was one of the six finalists for the COTS awards, but reportedly just barely lost out to Rocketplane Kistler and SpaceX. The company said in a statement that they are proceeding with their plans to develop its Crew Transfer Vehicle that would be launched by a scaled-up version of the QuickReach launcher being developed by AirLaunch LLC. A manned orbital flight could take place in late 2010, if all goes well (and an agreement like this can’t hurt, for even though it doesn’t provide the company any money, it does give it additional legitimacy in the eye of potential investors.)
A PlanetSpace statement includes some illustrations of its NOVA booster and Silver Dart vehicle that have not previously been widely circulated. The NOVA launcher is a cluster of seven boosters, each with four Alchemy engines that the company says are derived from the engine used in the V-2 over 60 years ago. The Silver Dart would have a glide range of 40,000 kilometers and a crossrange of about 6,500 kilometers, according to release, which would open up a number of point-to-point transportation possibilities. Indeed, PlanetSpace chairman Chirinjeev Kathuria said earlier this week that the company was looking into flights from New York to Mumbai, India in 45 minutes, an intriguing but certainly very long-term market.
PlanetSpace claims that its first atmospheric test flight of the Silver Dart could occur as soon as late 2008, with the vehicle launching from the company’s planned spaceport on Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, to an altitude of 6,500 meters and a downrange distance of over 6,000 kilometers. An orbital flight would follow in late 2009. Of course, neither the Silver Dart nor the spaceport exist yet, although PlanetSpace hopes the NASA deal will help them raise $200 million in funding in the form of “private investors and bank loans”.