Wither COTS? NASA Looks into Purchasing Japanese HTV for ISS Resupply

In a possible blow to NASA’s own COTS program, the space agency is considering purchasing the Japanese HTV cargo freighter to aid in the resupply of the International Space Station, The Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

“The U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration has begun unofficial negotiations with the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency on purchasing units of the H-2 Transfer Vehicle (HTV), an unmanned cargo transfer spacecraft developed in Japan, as the successor to its space shuttles, which are to retire in 2010, The Yomiuri Shimbun learned Saturday.

“Behind the move is NASA’s concern that the retirement of its space shuttles will make it difficult for the United States to fulfill its responsibilities to deliver water, food and materials for scientific experiments to the International Space Station.”

Space X and Orbital Sciences Corporation are currently developing commercial ISS resupply vehicles under NASA’s COTS program. It’s possible that NASA’s efforts are part of a contingency plan to guard against delays in the COTS effort.

UPDATE: NASA has released a statement denying the story:

“Contrary to news reports, NASA has not officially or unofficially been discussing the purchase of H-II Transfer Vehicles (HTV) — uninhabited resupply cargo ships for the space station — from the Japanese Space Agency, or JAXA.

“NASA is committed to domestic commercial cargo resupply to the space station and does not plan to procure cargo delivery services from Japan. As part of our original agreements as compensation for common system operating costs NASA has limited cargo capability on the Japanese and European cargo vehicles. NASA has recently issued a request for proposal for the cargo needs of International Space Station beyond those supplied by our current international agreements. NASA has chosen to depend on commercial resupply of cargo delivery to the station.”