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Tue, Mar 14, 2006

Two Commercial Space Companies Join Forces

Rocketplane Kistler May Offer ISS Flights As Soon As 2008

Aero-News has learned that Rocketplane Limited, Inc. and Kistler Aerospace Corporation have joined forces as a new space transportation team. This team -- to be named Rocketplane Kistler -- is made up of two companies with histories dating back to the start of the entrepreneurial space movement in the early 1990’s.

"Dr. George Mueller and the Kistler team have developed a mature and technologically sound design capable of revolutionizing space transportation," said Rocketplane President and CEO George French, Jr. "Rocketplane Kistler has a unique chance of making commercial space viable by reducing the cost to orbit and by building a fleet of cargo-carrying vehicles for transport to low earth orbit, Space Station and beyond."

The two companies will have to find a way to merge two distinctly different vehicle structures. The Rocketplane XP Vehicle is a four-seat fighter-sized vehicle, derived from a retired Lear 23, that is fitted with a delta wing and a V-tail (above); Kistler Aerospace Corporation has worked to develop the more conventional, vertical-launch K-1 fully reusable aerospace vehicle (below, right) designed to deliver payloads to orbit and provide a low-cost alternative to single-use launch vehicles.

Both companies stress, however, that despite utilizing different vehicle architectures, they share many common core technologies -- such as thermal protection systems; liquid oxygen/kerosene rocket propulsion, advanced integrated vehicle health management systems; and an overall high Technical Readiness Level.

Representatives with the Rocketplane Kistler team tell ANN the new company will work to combine the best of both systems -- suborbital spaceplanes that are optimized for near-term space tourist and microgravity research applications, and two-stage fully reusable vertical launch vehicles that are optimized for International Space Station crew and cargo delivery and affordable, responsive commercial launch services.

"When studying Kistler closer, I realized that Dr. Mueller and his team has over the last 12 years actually been pushing the envelope so that NASA can exit their Shuttle program by having the K-1 replace some of their key requirements," said French. "Also, remember Kistler has employed substantial amounts of private risk capital that puts the K-1 $600M ahead of the next competitor for the ISS re-supply, and the result of those efforts position Rocketplane/Kistler for an ISS flight as early as 2008."

FMI: www.rocketplane.com, www.kistleraerospace.com

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