Rocketplane Limited, Inc.
|Industry||Aerospace and defense|
|Headquarters||Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA|
|George D. French Jr., CEO, David Urie, VP/PM-resigned, John Herrington, VP/Flight Operations-resigned|
Number of employees
|30 (as of 2005-12-01)|
Rocketplane Limited, Inc. was incorporated under the laws of the state of Oklahoma on 16 July 2001. The corporation’s founders envisioned building a rocketplane that would send passengers more than 330,000 feet (100 km) above the Earth. In 2004, Rocketplane was designated a Qualified Space Transportation Provider by the State of Oklahoma under the guidelines specified in SB 817. With this designation, the State of Oklahoma awarded to Rocketplane re-sellable tax credits that were used to initiate operations, develop facilities, and recruit the required engineering staff.
Rocketplane Limited, Inc. is not the same company as Pioneer Rocketplane. Pioneer still exists on paper, but is no longer operating. Rocketplane Limited owns the intellectual property of Pioneer, but none of the principals of Pioneer, including its founder, work for Rocketplane Limited at this time.
George French, CEO of Rocketplane, announced on 27 February 2006 that he was purchasing Kistler Aerospace for an undisclosed sum, and renaming it Rocketplane Kistler. Kistler Aerospace had designed and begun construction of the K-1 launch vehicle, a fully reusable two-stage to orbit launcher, but filed for bankruptcy before the vehicle could be completed. French used the K-1 to bid for commercial crew and cargo resupply contracts to the International Space Station under the NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program. This contract was awarded jointly to SpaceX and Rocketplane Kistler on 18 August 2006.
Rocketplane Limited intended to fly space tourism flights using the Rocketplane XP spaceplane it was building. It had announced plans to fly the XP in 2007, but on August 31, 2007 its chief executive officer, Calvin Burgess, said test flights would be delayed until 2009 and commercial flights were pushed back until at least 2010. Rocketplane anticipated ticket prices of US$200,000 for a seat on a suborbital flight, including 4 minutes of weightlessness, with an apogee of over 100 kilometers altitude.
Space News, Aviation Week and the Oklahoma Gazette reported layoffs and funding problems. These publications reported, "Rocketplane officials failed to meet a funding deadline mandated by a NASA contract to build a reusable rocket ..."
The Oklahoma Gazette wrote several stories on Rocketplane, including a June 13, 2007 front page featured cover story titled "PIE in the SKY" and lead with "It's been eight years since Rocketplane wooed the state with creating space tourism. Oklahoma taxpayers gave the company $18 million. So where is the ship?" The Oklahoma Gazette also reported diverted funds and the layoff of the Oklahoma work force.
Space News reported in a June 25, 2007 story, "... if RpK [Rocketplane Kistler] misses the new deadline, it would be the fourth time the company has gone back to NASA and requested an extension."
The Chicago Tribune reported on September 11, 2007 that Abercrombie and Kent, a luxury travel company, was suing Rocketplane for $3.4 million in liquidated damages from Rocketplane having stopped work on the XP vehicle. Abercrombie and Kent was also asking for $3.425 million in costs from Rocketplane failing to show up for an arbitration session.
On October 18, 2007, NASA discontinued its agreement with Rocketplane Kistler, and announced that the remaining $175 million commitment to the project would be made available to other companies. On October 19, the company appealed the decision, and asked NASA to reconsider the termination or, alternatively, pay $10 million in costs incurred to date.
In February 2009, Rocketplane vacated its Oklahoma City headquarters building. According to Oklahoma State Representative David Dank, Rocketplane no longer has any presence in the state. Rocketplane filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and liquidation in July 2010.
- Rocketplane Kistler
- Blue Origin
- Virgin Galactic
- Two commercial space companies join forces - Rocketplane press release on the Kistler acquisition.
- NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
- List of private spaceflight companies — A compiled list of private spaceflight companies
- Lates Space Fellowship Rocketplane News
- "Former astronaut resigns from Rocketplane". NewsOK.
- "Rocketplane says delay sign of hard task". NewsOK.
- Borland, John (September 11, 2007). "Space Travel Agency Sues Struggling Rocketplane". Wired Science.
- "Rocketplane Kistler Appeals NASA Decision to Terminate COTS Agreement". space.com. Retrieved 2007-10-23.
- "Aerospace Company Deserts Oklahoma Leaving Questions". news9.com. Retrieved 2009-07-29.
- "Former Oklahoma Rocketplane's bankruptcy may be last stop on itinerary". NewsOK.com. August 10, 2010.
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