The XS-1 Spaceplane would theoretically cut the cost of satellite launches down from hundreds of millions of dollars each to more like $5 million each, and would be capable of flying 10 times in 10 days. On Tuesday, the Defense Department’s high-tech Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency awarded contracts to three companies to develop demonstration vehicles.
The companies getting the call are Boeing, Masten Space Systems and Northop Grumman. Boeing is teaming with Blue Origin; Masten is teaming with XCOR Aerospace; and Northop Grumman is teaming with Virgin Galactic.
Last fiscal year the XS-1 project got $10 million, and for fiscal year 2015 the Obama administration is requesting $27 million. The timetable calls for DARPA to narrow down to just one vendor by next year.
(Satellite launches have been the subject of a great deal of friction of late.)