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:
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.