From the OKG News on Friday: “Rocketplane’s XP, a suborbital tourism vehicle meant to take off from the Oklahoma Spaceport in Burns Flat, is in a funding free fall, according to the project’s former chief engineer.”

That’s David Urie, who left Rocketplane Kistler in May. According to the article, he says the company diverted its resources to its Kistler division to support NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

I’m waiting for word from the Rocketplane folks on their side of the story.

Personally, I’d like to see companies like Rocketplane Kistler tell NASA “Thanks but no thanks,” and focus on true entrepreneurial spaceflight without government interference. But with the space agency throwing hundreds of millions of dollars at small companies like this the temptation to take it is just too great.

Problem is, whoever pays the bills makes the rules, and NASA’s commitment is clearly to the big, mainline aerospace contractors building the next moon ship. Something like $100 billion over the life of that program, as opposed to a mere half a billion for COTS.

While I’d like to remain optimistic, $100 billion talks a lot louder than 0.5% of that. Yes, COTS and Project Constellation will perform two different missions, but both are to send people to orbit, and as Robert Heinlein famously pointed out, that’s half the battle for any space mission. If successful, COTS would render at least half of Constellation redundant at a tiny fraction of the price. Is Big Aerospace really going to allow that?