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DARPA Picks Boeing, Masten, Northrop for Hypersonic Spaceplane Program

DARPAXS1Boeing (NYSE: BA), Masten Space Systems and Northrop Grumman (NYSE: NOC) have been awarded prime contracts to develop a reusable unmanned launch vehicle for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

DARPA intends to use the vehicle to send small satellites into low-Earth orbit by using expendable upper stages, the agency said Tuesday.

The companies will work to build a demonstration vehicle, assess core technologies and processes for risk reduction and develop a fabrication and flight test blueprint for the system under first phase of the Experimental Spaceplane program.

“We chose performers who could prudently integrate existing and up-and-coming technologies and operations, while making XS-1 as reliable, easy-to-use and cost-effective as possible, ” said Jess Sponable, DARPA program manager.

Boeing will work with Blue Origin, Masten Space Systems with XCOR Aerospace and Northrop with Virgin Galactic for the XS-1 project.

DARPA aims to fly a reusable first stage at hypersonic speeds into space 10 times in 10 days through the XS-1 program.

“We’re eager to see how their initial designs envision making spaceflight commonplace—with all the potential military, civilian and commercial benefits that capability would provide, ” Sponable said.

DARPA wants to limit the cost for each payload weighing between 3, 000 and 5, 000 pounds to less than $5 million per launch.

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