Unmanned Japanese Cargo Spacecraft Could Be NASA's Next Space Shuttle

With the dinosaur Space Shuttle set to retire in 2010, and Orion due to be finished (optimistically) by 2015, NASA may purchase the $131 million unmanned HTV cargo vehicle from JAXA, Japan's space agency, to guarantee fresh shipments of space-Doritos flowing up to the brave souls on the International Space Sation. While they had initially planned to fill this gap by relying on commercial space cargo flights by companies like SpaceX, Reuters is reporting that delays in the private-sector space companies have caused NASA to look elsewhere to avoid being crippled by the Shuttle's retirement. UPDATE: NASA issued a statement this afternoon saying the Reuters' report was full of baloney. They're still dedicated to finding commercial haulers-full release below.

Statement on Inaccurate Reports About Japanese Cargo Services

WASHINGTON — 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.

[Reuters]