When it rains, it pours

Yesterday came word that NASA has given Rocketplane Kistler notice of plans to terminate its COTS award because of RpK’s inability to raise $500 million in private funding despite several deadline extensions. The notice is not in and of itself the termination of the award, but instead provides 30 days’ notice of NASA’s termination plans, giving RpK one last chance to round up the money. RpK is not giving up: company CEO George French told MSNBC that the company is “working on possible cures” for its current financial crisis.

The potential COTS termination is not the only problem facing the company. According to the Chicago Tribune, luxury travel company Abercrombie & Kent has filed suit against RpK, claiming that RpK decided to “abandon” the XP suborbital vehicle earlier this year. Abercrombie & Kent had an agreement to market the XP flights but elected to exercise an early-termination clause in the agreement; the company is seeking $3.4 million (plus about $3,000 in arbitration costs for a meeting with a mediator that RpK reportedly skipped) from RpK.

The article also includes quotes from Cindy Cashman, an RpK customer best known for planning the first wedding in space on her XP flight. “I put a large down payment in and I want to get it back,” she told the Tribune.

The Tribune article does mention that RpK denies that it has abandoned the XP, and that the company has actually been working to refine the design of the suborbital spaceplane. George French told NASA SpaceFlight.com that a “new Rocketplane XP configuration” will be unveiled next month at the X Prize Cup in New Mexico. Whether there will be enough money to convert that configuration into flying hardware, though, remains the big question.

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