An aerospace manufacturer will build a reusable spaceplane the size of a business jet that will launch from and land at Cape Canaveral, reports SpaceNews.
The Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) won the contract — valued at $146 million — with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency last month to build the spaceplane called the XS-1, or the Phantom Express.
Vertical takeoff of the plane is scheduled for 2020, and SpaceNews reports that the goal is for it to launch daily, with the ability to carry satellites to low Earth orbit.
Reusable rockets are becoming a staple for rocket companies to help lower the cost of launches and to be competitive in a growing commercial market. Kent, Wash.-based rocket company Blue Origin and Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX are pioneers in the reusable rocket field.
SpaceX became the first to complete a space mission using a flight-proven Falcon 9 rocket and landing it on March 30. The company plans to do the same thing on June 17. It's estimated that SpaceX's launches with a used rocket cuts costs by 30 percent.
However, some experts have said we're still a long way off from used rocket totally changing the cost of launches. "I’ve been hearing the argument about reusability and they say it’s the path to the future, but we’re a long way off. Here why: If you look at the economics of it, cost benefits only work if you get up to 50, 60 or 70 units a year, and then it starts to pay for itself,” Jim Cantrell, co-founder and CEO of Vector Space Systems, told Orlando Business Journal in a previous report.
Still, reusability is causing other rocket companies to change their business model. For example, Centennial, Colo.-based United Launch Alliance is working on its Vulcan rocket that will have some reusable components.
Source: Orlando Business Journal