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DARPA pushes its Experimental Spaceplane program forward

The competition heats up: DARPA outlines its goals for its Experimental Spaceplane program (XS-1).

Key to the effort is DARPA’s recognition that since 2000 under the government’s EELV program, launch costs for the military had increased significantly, while the launch rates appears to slow.

According to DARPA’s presentation, the Pegasus, Minotaur, and Antares launch vehicles only fly one DoD mission per year at a cost of ~$55 million USD per flight.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 currently performs ~3-6 DoD missions per year at a contract price equal to or greater than $54 million USD per flight.

That price per flight then jumps dramatically for United Launch Alliance’s (ULA’s) Atlas V and Delta IV launch vehicle families – which currently perform about 8 DoD flights per year for a cost per flight in excess of $400 million USD. [emphasis mine]

ULA claims that they charge the Air Force an average of $225 million per launch. DARPA says it is $400 million. Either way, that is a lot higher than the $83 million that SpaceX charged for its first Air Force contract.

The article then provides a nice overview of the XS-1 program, which like NASA’s commercial space program is asking private companies to come up with the new designs and technologies rather than have the government try to do it. All DARPA is doing is laying out their basic requirements, fly 10 times in 10 days for less than $5 million per flight.

The program is now shifting to its second phase, which will call for actual construction proposals late this year, with the hope of test flights by 2019.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors. The ebook can be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner. Note that the price for the ebook, $3.99, goes up to $5.99 on September 1, 2022.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

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