The company that Orbital "took-over-from" was Rocketplane Global, which had been absorbed by Kistler Aerospace. It wasn't really a surprise though since NASA had tried an "end-run" single-source contract for "data-collection" on RLV operations with Kistler on the K-1 TSTO vehicle a few years earlier. Basically NASA was going to "pay" for Kistler to finish the K-1 and then pay them again to fly data collectors on a few flights. When that fell through it was pretty clear that one way or another someone in NASA wanted to get the K-1 flying. So when COTS came along they were a shoe-in.
Then it turned out that the K-1 being "80%" completed turned out to NOT be the actual case, (from what I understand the vehicle subassemblies MIGHT be "80%" intergrated but the overall vehicle is/was barely started) and Kistler couldn't raise the "private-investment" funds needed to match the COTS award per the COTS funding regulations and they lost the COTS contract.
While the concept of the K-1 RLV seems sound for some reason it has become a "money-sink" non-project that seems to go nowhere no matter how often they manage to get funding.
On COTS itself the overall "goal" of the COTS program was and is (politically and practically) to NOT fund "the-usual-suspects" such as Boeing and LockMart, but to give the smaller and or "newer" space companies a chance at some government funding. Therefor the regulations for funding pretty much preclude using exisisting capability even though the actual terms used is "Commercial-Off-The-Shelf"
So any proposal that used an EELV, (such as Arctus) was prohibited from competing.
"Politically" it also has to pretty much be a company with a majority of its operations within the United States which is why using the European ATV isn't allowed even on an EELV. (And I recall that the ORIGINAL proposal for the system actually was using Russian boosters)
Which, by the way is where things get even 'sticker' than normal politics. Remember I mentioned the Taurus-II design? It's not actually "legal" under NASA regulations either. (Note: Not COTS regs, NASA regs) It's because the "final" stage is a solid rocket, which means it can't be used to deliver 'cargo' to any NASA sponsored manned platform unless it adds ANOTHER maneuvering stage capable of "variable propulsion and delta-V adjustments" which in other words means liquid and/or mono-propellant.
Strangely enough IF the Taurus-II was set up with solids as the launch stages and a liquid "on-orbit" stage it would be "legal' for COTS as long as it didn't use any "surplus" missile motors.
(The issues with the Orbital vehicles which also applies to vehicles like Conestoga is that they use military motors which by COTS regulation has to be considered as included in the COTS award monies. So the more 'government' equipment you use the less money you get from the government and the more money you have to "raise" from outside sources.)
No COTS was (and is) never about "cheap-quick" access to space though that is what it says verbatim in strict technical terms. The language is intended to play to and tap into the public support of such things as the "X-Prize" contest by giving government money to companies that are NOT part of the "standard" aerospace community. This is SUPPOSED to open opportunities for non-conventional and out-of-the-box thinking and concepts. Of course the REALITY it quite different as it will always be when political motivation is included.
'nough said on that...
Lastly let me clarify something, a VERY common mistake that Ryan Crierie brings up:
>Great! SpaceX has managed to.......get to the point where Orbital's been at for the last decade
>-- in fact their entire business model is centered around exploiting the loophole in COTS
>contracting that shuts out proven and already in production launch vehicles.
There is a large community of thinking that somehow assumes that the above is "true" and is in fact the ONLY reason that Space-X is getting any business at all. That without COTS Space-X would fold up and blow away. This would of course "seem" to be proven out since as noted the Falcon-1 flight record is less than 50% successful, and this is often used to 'support' the misconception.
Elon Musk has noted in response to this assumption that in fact Space-X does not NEED the COTS program to compete and this is born out by the fact that the Falcon-1 is ineligible for COTS funding (and in fact Space-X would be disqualified AND fined under COTS regulations if ANY COTS monies were spent on any aspect of Falcon-1 production) yet still has a very large list of scheduled flights that were IN-PLACE prior to COTS even being announced. The Falcon-9 is being used for the COTS program but was IN-DEVELOPMENT prior to COTS due to customer feedback and payload demands. Space-X is in no way 'dependent' on COTS restrictions as they have consistently (and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future according to Musk) "matched" all government funding from COTS (as required by regulations) with internal, non-solicited monies and without the company opening up public stock purchases.
In other words: COTS has NO effect on the Space-X business plan and customers are lining up to buy launches on both the Falcon-1 and the Falcon-9 NOT because those customers have no other choice, nor because COTS allows Space-X to somehow 'undercut' other launch services but because they believe that launching with Space-X gives them some sort of 'advantage' over "proven-and-in-production" launch vehicles!
Space-X has a better business plan, less expensive launch costs, better customer service, is more applicable to market needs, or whatever that meets customer needs BETTER than "proven-and-in-production" launch service providers as is evidenced by their list of scheduled and waiting customers. They are obviously doing SOMETHING different than the other launch services providers even if they ARE "over-hyped" since they continue to GAIN customers.
And you are of course correct Blackstar in that this probably isn't the place for this discussion and if the moderator feels the need to remove this I can handle that. I just needed to get that off my chest
(And yes, this "discussion" is still going strong on NSF where I'm not even considered a "fan" of Space-X