Boeing has been awarded a $6.6m contract to design a cheap, reusable mini shuttle that can launch military satellites.
The small, planelike craft is known as the XS-1 program—short for ‘eXperimental Spaceplane 1’, and could blast off in 2019 on its first test mission.
It is hoped the craft could quickly launch small satellites that could defend against the growing threat of Russian and Chinese space weapons.
S-1 could ‘create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations,’ according to DARPA, the military research arm heading the project.
The XS-1 is an airplane-like vehicle that can fly to the edge of Earth’s atmosphere and quickly boost small satellites into orbit, and then land, refuel, load up another satellite, and take off again within 24 hours.
‘In an era of declining budgets and adversaries’ evolving capabilities, quick, affordable, and routine access to space is increasingly critical for both national and economic security,’ DARPA said in a press release.
However, it has remained tight lipped about the latest contract.