Before the military can start constructing TIE Fighters and Galaxy-class starships, attempts to militarize space need to start a bit more simply. This is the XS-1, a concept space plane designed by Northrop Grumman under a $3.9-million contract from DARPA as part of an experimental space plane program.

NG is competing against Boeing and Masten Space Systems to develop a space plane that can fly ten times over a ten-day span and is also able to launch with 3,000 to 5,000-pound payloads. Each launch should cost less than $5 million per flight, unnamed officials told Discovery News. The winner of the competition should see their concept enter orbit for the first time in 2018.

Northrop has enlisted the help of Scaled Composites, an aerospace firm, and Virgin Galactic, Sir Richard Branson's attempt at a commercial spaceline.

"Our team is uniquely qualified to meet DARPA's XS-1 operational system goals, having built and transitioned many developmental systems to operational use, including our current work on the world's only commercial spaceline, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo," Doug Young, NG's vice president of missile defense and advanced missions said in a statement. "We plan to bundle proven technologies into our concept that we developed during related projects for DARPA, NASA and the US Air Force Research Laboratory, giving the government maximum return on those investments."


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