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Boeing wins DARPA’s nod for space plane

Phanton Express XS-1 space plane
An artist’s conception shows Boeing’s Phantom Express XS-1 space plane in flight. (Boeing Illustration)

The Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency says it has selected the Boeing Co. to develop and test its XS-1 hypersonic space plane, using a design now known as the Phantom Express.

Boeing won out over Northrop Grumman and Masten Space Systems to take the long-running XS-1 project beyond Phase 1 into Phase 2/3, culminating with test flights in 2020.

The reusable space plane would be designed to carry and deploy a small, expendable upper stage, then return to Earth for a runway landing. The upper stage would be capable of putting satellites weighing up to 3,000 pounds in low Earth orbit.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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