Launching commercial space: NASA, cargo, and policy innovation

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9 Scopus citations


In 2013, NASA completed its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Initiated in 2005, COTS developed a privately operated cargo transport system for the International Space Station (ISS). In doing so, it met an urgent NASA need to replace a vital space shuttle function and heralded the prospect of crew transportation. It also fostered more competition in the aerospace industry aimed at lowering costs for space access. Finally, it gave hope that low-earth orbit might someday become more the preserve of the industrial sector, so that NASA could concentrate its constrained government resources on deep-space exploration. This essay analyzes the case of COTS as a policy innovation - how it was born, led, and the forces that helped and hindered it during its eight-year journey from concept to closure. It indicates factors critical to its success.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-31
Number of pages9
JournalSpace Policy
StatePublished - Nov 1 2015


  • Commercial spaceflight
  • Decision making
  • NASA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Space and Planetary Science


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