NASA’s Orbital Space Plane is touted as the nation’s next space vehicle aimed at providing crew rescue and transfer for the international space station.

. If given a go-ahead, the project may well serve as needed backbone to spearhead the rekindling of human space venturing beyond low Earth orbit.

WHETHER THE Orbital Space Plane is a winged craft, a capsule, or some sort of cross between the two remains on the table. Regardless of whatever approach is taken, the concept has already come under criticism.

For supporters, the OSP is a fast-track way to assure safe flight of astronauts to and from the space station and to help maximize the scientific output of the costly orbiting complex. Others see the OSP as merely an expensive ploy not to buy Russian Soyuz capsules.

The Boeing Co. and a team led by Lockheed Martin — involving Northrop Grumman and Orbital Sciences Corp. — are now in head-to-head competition to win the NASA contract to build the OSP.

The OSP system is being pursued to…

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