NASA Explores Speeding Up COTS Crew Vehicle Development

NASA is close to completing a study on how to speed up development of an orbital crew vehicle under its COTS program, according to testimony on Capitol Hill this week.

Richard Gilbrech, NASA’s associate administrator for exploration, told Congressmen on Thursday that the agency is in the “final stages” of the study, Aviation Week reports. Under the COTS program, NASA is providing funding to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences to developed cargo vehicles capable of supplying the International Space Station. SpaceX has committed to building both robotic and crewed versions of its Dragon spacecraft; Orbital Sciences is only focused on a cargo vehicle.

Speeding up COTS could help NASA fill a projected five-year gap between the end of space shuttle flights in 2010 and the first flight of its successor, Orion. Another option would be to increase funding for Orion and its Ares booster.

During the hearing, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher asked whether NASA was pursuing the one thing that could make all these issues moot: anti-gravity technology. The answer was “no.” The maverick California Republican has a history of intriguing statements: last year, he publicly questioned whether past temperature spikes had been caused by dinosaur flatulence.