All the Facts on COTS

Capt. Andy Lee’s Commentary “NASA’s New Partner COTS” [Feb. 2, page 19] misstates several facts. First, contrary to his assertion that “[NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program] is meant to enable private companies to develop launch and delivery capabilities of cargo and crew to the ISS,” NASA elected to fund only cargo capabilities, in spite of Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s (SpaceX) continued efforts in Congress to force NASA to fund crew transportation capability.

Second, the $104 billion that he quotes former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin stating as the price tag for the Constellation program was for human lunar landing and return capability, not, as Capt. Lee appears to imply, for low Earth orbit capability to the international space station.

Third, his statement that of the two companies funded by NASA to develop capabilities under COTS, SpaceX “is the furthest along with the launch of its Falcon 1” blatantly ignores the minor fact that the other company – whose name he does not even mention, compared with four mentions of SpaceX and its owner,Elon Musk – has performed 54 space launches (vs. SpaceX’s four) with a 93 percent success rate (vs. 25 percent for SpaceX). Capt. Lee should check his facts before promoting any private company and bashing any government program.

Antonio Elias




Editors Note: Elias is vice president and general manager of Orbital Sciences’ Advanced Programs Group, which is leading developing of Orbital’s COTS system