One of the big topics that will likely come up during the ISPS and X Prize Cup will be the future of Rocketplane Inc. given its loss of its funded COTS award earlier this month. (Rocketplane president George French and VP of business development Chuck Lauer are both scheduled to be on the first panel of the day Wednesday at the ISPS). An article that appeared this past weekend in The Oklahoman suggested that the company would turn its attention back to suborbital space tourism, which had received far less attention over the last 18 months or so as the company focused on the K-1 orbital vehicle. Rocketplane Global, the subsidiary focused on suborbital flight, will unveil a new design of the XP suborbital vehicle this week; the reports haven’t indicated if this is a design tweak or a substantial redesign, or the reasons behind the change.
At the same time, though, there’s signs that Rocketplane Kistler is not going to give up that funded COTS award without a fight. Space News reported this week that the company is already starting its appeal process within the agency, a three-step process that works its way up to NASA associate administrator Rich Gilbrech, who previously agreed to the decision to terminate the award. (That seems to suggest that RpK’s odds of success are low.) The company does have the option after that to file suit in federal court; that, though, would cost the company more time and money, and probably not create a lot of goodwill with NASA. One consolation: RpK is free to submit a proposal in the new competition by NASA to award the $175 million that was freed up when NASA terminated the original RpK contract.