A next-generation military space plane which can launch satellites into orbit every day is a step closer.
The US military plans to build a reusable space plane which can fly cheaply and quickly into space to deposit vital defence satellites.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is now welcoming design proposals for the revolutionary vessel.
Currently, space vehicles are not fully reusable and need to undergo time-consuming safety checks in between flights.
But it is hoped the Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) project will produce a space plane capable of travelling to space 10 times in 10 days at a cost of just $5 million (£3.5m) a time.
DARPA officials wrote in a statement on the agency’s website: “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.
“Current satellite launch systems, however, require scheduling years in advance for an extremely limited inventory of available slots.
“Moreover, launches often cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, due in large part to the massive amounts of dedicated infrastructure and large number of personnel required.
“DARPA created its Experimental Spaceplane (XS-1) program to help overcome these challenges and create a new paradigm for more routine, responsive and affordable space operations, reducing the time to get capabilities to space.”
Estimates suggest the aircraft will be ready to fly by around 2019.
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