This story is important in the context of the story about the successful testing of high energy laser sublimation of basalt a couple of days ago, a proof of concept experiment necessary if the plans to build an asteroid-zapping weapons platform ever is to see the light of day.

You'll recall, though, that in the blog the principal problem to be overcome was not the concept but the scale. To zap asteroids with lasers (or for that matter masers or grasers) is to have a sufficient scale in order to zap small to medium sized asteroids, and that requires a large energy source to pump the weapon itself.

Then, assuming these hurdles can be overcome, then it would have to be built, and all those new-fangled propulsion systems would have to be added to it to move it around to be able to target different asteroids (or whatever else).

This story was shared by Mr. B, and it does raise the question of just what a reusable space-plane is really being planned for:

Reusable Military Spaceplane Tops DARPA's Budget Request, Again

Now, it doesn't take a Nazi rocket scientist to see the potential connections here between the two stories:

WASHINGTON — For the second consecutive year, the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's top-funded space program is an experimental spaceplane intended to make frequent trips to orbit.

DARPA asked for $50 million in the Pentagon's 2017 budget request for its Experimental Spaceplane 1, or XS-1 program. That's up from a $30 million the agency asked for during the fiscal year 2016 budget cycle.

XS-1 aims to develop a reusable first stage that could carry an expendable upper stage capable of placing payloads weighing up to 1,800 kilograms into orbit. DARPA said the vehicle could ultimately fly 10 times in 10 days and boost payloads into low Earth orbit for less than $5 million per launch. [DARPA's XS-1 Military Space Plane Concept in Pictures]

Three industry teams are working on the program: Boeing and Blue Origin; Masten Space Systems and XCOR Aerospace; and Northrop Grumman and Virgin Galactic.

Now, this is just the public version of the story, and like you probably are, I am suspicious that this problem and the budgeting for it may mask a similar program, but a more ambitious one, for one has to remember, in addition to public funding and black budget funding, there's a vast and hidden system of finance in my opinion. And it has been a seemingly consistent pattern that when such technologies and budget items are called for, the proof of concept has already been done. In this respect, remember also that the US Air Force has already sucecssfully tested such a robotic "reusable" plane.

The bottom line here is that they want a resuable space plane to deliver multiple payloads in a very short time. Now, just add the robots, the 3d additive manufacturing, and assemble...
See you on the flip side...


  1. All this stuff from the article is way old. I had an Aerospace Engineering senior design class in college (c.1970) where we had (individually) to design a space shuttle type system. Fortunately, I lived close to DC. I visited the Library of Congress, and raided its cache of contractor designs on microfiche. Then, I just ransacked the minds of top-flight designers, so to speak. Many good ideas. (I got an ‘A’ on the class.)

    The point is, what I was viewing-then was little different than what is ‘on the market’ today. A little bit of technology advance, but not radically different. 45 years gone. Grrr.

    My take on this DARPA ‘enterprise’ (had to say it) has to do with embarrassment. Their embarrassment. Musk and SpaceX are ahead of DARPA. SpaceX is in the final-proving of a flyback first stage (rocket-engine based). When they have the reliability down, they will be way ahead of DARPA’s capabilities. Oops…

    The XS-1 is just an aerodynamic-flyback first stage. No different than 45-year-old designs that I saw at the Library of Congress. They were in initial-design for the Apollo-replacement when Kissinger/Nixon/McNamara pulled the funding plug in favor of VietNam. That’s how we got the low-research-budget, massively-expensive Space Shuttle. Grrr.

    The one potential ‘advantage’ of a winged first stage is that it can take-off from any lengthy airstrip and ‘launch’ to any orbital plane. Good if you want a ‘surprise’ capability.

    Otherwise, DARPA is just embarrassed…

    1. SpaceX is barking up the wrong tree I would go for a spherical spaceship ala Goku of Dragon Balls. A vertical takeoff and landing cylindrical craft is next to impossible to land on return only the DC-X succeeded that was not a full orbit to landing test.

      1. marcos, I respectfully disagree. The two failures that SpaceX first stages had on vertical landing were due to (1) running out of gymballing fluid on the rocket motor nozzles and (2) having a landing leg not fully lock into place. Both are engineering issues, not maneuvering issues. A successful vertical landing – returning from the edge of space to a land-pad – occurred recently.

        I believe that electronics, fast computers, and landing-simulation software has taken most of the risk out of “vertical takeoff and landing cylindrical craft”. Now, we can get on with Robert Heinlein -shaped space vehicles, at last…

  2. Venusians… at the Pentagram… with reusable vehicles …want a platform in space to blow up things…

    “All of this has happened before and all of this will happen again.”

  3. This is all “wind”, and sooner or later they will have to “tell us” exactly what they have in non standard space toys. They cannot keep the lid on all that technology for ever, the space mining guys are siting there dribbling and waiting for a new form of propulsion so they can go “mine”.
    Meantime the “BS” will continue, and the Pentagrammaphone and NASA will persist with the usual “standard” public relations dribble.

    PS: It’s nice to be back after moving house.

  4. Looks like conventional rocket launching… new technology here???? Another question: why now? Are we looking at an obvious revelation that is unsaid as to the purpose and need of this space airplane? Yeah, that’s what we are looking at.

  5. It looks like Dr.Von Brauns fake asteroid then aliens scenario is playing out as foretold, of course we all know that weaponizing space is the prime objective

    1. Ah, Von Braun… Member of the Nazi party, the SS and, before Operation Paperclip sanitised his records (and those of his entire scientific team), identified as a war criminal and should have stood trial at Nuremberg. He used slave labour that was eventually starved to death (existing on only 800 calories per day) in his rocket factories and should have been prosecuted but he was too valuable to the Americans and so they turned a blind eye in exchange for his cooperation. Can a guy like this really be trusted to tell the truth about what lies ahead? Carol Rosin seems a decent sort, but if youre that empathetic would you you have befriended a guy with the above track record? The playbook certainly appears to be playing out to date but something niggles me here.

  6. I agree with Lost, that this program has already been operating on some level, so my first reaction was that they are ready to go public with the whole thing. So we are truly in the Carol Rosin scenario of attacking asteroids in space as a front for placing weapons there for whatever other reason they may have. Then if that is so, they are already working on the final goal…weapons against aliens, which all this 3D technology and robots are needed for, and it’s only a matter of time until they go public with that one. The Vatican has been paving the way for a few years now.

  7. Anyone remember the Mach 25-30 Scramjet like the one depicted in the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey”. Then there is the Skylon and we can go back to the Albatross in Jules Verne “Master Of The World”. This should have been ready when the space shuttle was cancelled when will this dog and pony show be rolled up and the clown show closed.

    1. Such a plane exists for use in the atmosphere, it’s called the Aurora, or not.

      Space travel beyond the moon is so much cheaper by other methods, which are actually secret.

  8. The program, not this particular one, has existed as a real part of space launch and retrieval for years.

    After the Challenger blew up, the Air Force decided to build its own system. It uses the a modified B-70 as the launch vehicle.

    This all was summarized in Aviation Week at least a decade ago.

    None of this is super secret, kind of like the Aurora (whatever the real name) clearly exists as a replacement for the SR-71. Yeah, there really are contrails going from Nevada to Africa in an hour. The point about Aurora is related since, any small space plane would have to use really advanced, and light, materials to withstand reentry heat, so that kind of thing would overlap with a ram jet able to fly at a sustained Mach 7 within the atmosphere.

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