Barbara Selby
NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. January 28, 1991
(Phone: 703/557-5609)



Weldon Payne
UT-Calspan, Ctr. For Adv. Space Propulsion, Tullahoma, Tenn. (Phone: 615/455-0631)

RELEASE: 91-14

       INDUSTRY TEAM SELECTED FOR COMET COMMERCIAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

       James T. Rose, NASA Assistant Administrator for the Office of Commercial Programs, today announced that the University of Tennessee- Calspan's Center for Advanced Space Propulsion (CASP), Tullahoma, has selected three industrial firms for establishing launch and recovery of the unmanned, Earth-orbital Commercial Experiment Transporter (COMET) space system.

       Joe Pawlick, Assistant Director for Commercial Transportation and COMET Program Manager at CASP, said "We're taking the initial step toward establishing an entirely new U.S. industry. When successful, Centers for the Commercial Development of Space (CCDS) payloads and those of their industrial partners will be placed into and returned from the unique environment of space by COMET."

       The contractors selected and their component responsibilities are:

  • Space Industries, Inc. (SII), Houston, - payload integration, orbital operations and recovery system and services

  • Space Services, Inc. (SSI), Houston, a division of EER Systems - launch vehicle and services

  • Westinghouse Electric Co., Millersville, Md. - systems engineering and service module

       Upon completion of contract negotiations by CASP, such contracts will be prepared for inclusion in the CCDS grant by NASA who has budgeted $10.5 million in 1991 as initial funding for COMET. CASP is one of seven NASA CCDSs involved in the establishment of COMET.

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       The COMET launch vehicle will place a service module and a recovery system, called a freeflyer, into a 300 nautical mile Earth orbit at a 40-degree inclination to the Equator. The 1,800-pound freeflyer will be released with payloads aboard both the service module and recovery system. The latter system will contain about 9 cubic feet of payload volume while another 6 cubic feet will be in the non-recoverable service module.

       The recovery system will separate from the freeflyer after about a month in orbit to be retrieved at a southwest U.S. location. The service module is designed to support non-recoverable experiments for at least 100 days after the recovery system reenters.

       SSI's and SII's licensing of COMET for launch from either NASA's Goddard Wallops Island Flight Facility or Cape Canaveral will be governed by U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations.

       CASP is responsible for COMET program management and systems engineering. The Center for Advanced Materials, Columbus, Ohio, will provide screening and selection services for COMET payloads. The other five centers and their responsibilities are:

  • BioServe Space Technologies, University of Colorado, Boulder - recovery system and services

  • Center for Power, Texas A&M University, College Station - service module

  • Consortium for Materials Development in Space, University of Alabama, Huntsville - launch vehicle and services

  • Center for Macromolecular Crystallography, University of Alabama in Birmingham - payload integration

  • Space Vacuum Epitaxy Center, University of Houston
    • orbital operations

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