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Boeing will build DARPA’s XS-1 experimental spaceplane

You can hear the champagne corks popping here in Seattle as Boeing is awarded the contract to make DARPA’s cool experimental spaceplane. The company was competing with Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems to design the craft.

The XS-1, as it’s called, would allow for relatively cheap and simple trips to space for launching and testing satellites and all that sort of thing. The goal is to get costs down to as little as $5 million per launch all told, and be able to fly at least 10 times a year.

It’s meant to be a fusion of all the high-tech stuff from NASA, the Air Force and private sector aerospace, like lightweight cryogenic propellant tanks and super-strong and durable composite wings that can handle re-entry temperatures. It should be able to go at speeds up to Mach 10, and deliver payloads weighing up to 3,000 pounds to low-Earth orbit.

As is the usual case for these multi-million-dollar super-high-tech programs, there’s a demonstration video that looks like it was put together by a middle-schooler in 2005: