With Space Planes Eyed For 2018 Launch, Dream of a Winged Spacecraft Won't Die
Winged space trips, and runway landings, still beckon space visionaries.
And while the 2011 retirement of NASA's space shuttle, which glided to runway landings, seemed to dim prospects for space planes, the vehicles have recently reappeared in U.S. government plans and in proposals from private space firms.
Earlier this month, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—the Defense Department’s future-focused technology arm—proposed an award of $14 million for an “XS-1 spaceplane.” The plane would place satellites that weigh up to 4,000 pounds (1,800 kilograms) into orbit at a cost of $5 million per launch, about ten times less than it costs now with a conventional rocket such as the Orbital Science Corporation's Minotaur 4.
The agency’s space plane should be ready to fly in 2018. (See also